ELORA – Downtown businesses in Fergus now have the option to be open on statutory holidays, excluding Christmas Day.
On March 25 Centre Wellington council unanimously passed a bylaw allowing businesses in the Fergus BIA to be exempt from the Retail Business Holidays Act.
“Whether a business chooses to be open on those days is entirely voluntary, but this exemption would allow those businesses who wish to be open to be open,” said economic development officer Paticia Rutter.
“Downtown Elora … has been lucky to have this exemption since it was passed in 1992, as has the Fergus Marketplace.
“The only other business with an exemption in Centre Wellington is the Elora Home Hardware, which was also granted an exemption in 1992.”
At a public meeting held prior to the council meeting, Kim Jefferson spoke on behalf of the Fergus BIA.
She said the BIA has been working to revitalize the downtown core through marketing and beautification.
“Fergus is quickly becoming a downtown that is attracting visitors and locals alike,” she said.
“We’re becoming a day tripping contender.
“Currently all of our storefronts are full for the first time in a long while and there’s a positive energy and enthusiasm with our members and community at large.”
Businesses want to be open on statutory holidays to serve visitors.
“They are arriving at holidays and we’re not open,” Jefferson said.
“We’re not there and they’re like, ‘Well, why are we coming and why is all this marketing being done to draw us here and there’s nothing for us?’”
The BIA will also consider hosting events on statutory holidays now that members can be open and participate.
Jackie Fraser of Frabert’s Fresh Foods spoke in favour of the exemption.
Because Frabert’s is located in the Fergus Marketplace, it already had the exemption.
“Since we opened in 2008 we have always opened on stats except for Christmas, Boxing and New Year’s Days,” she said.
“We choose to close on Easter and Thanksgiving Sundays, and then I’ll open on the Mondays following those days.”
She said sales are up 50 to 100 per cent on holiday Mondays over a regular Monday. Good Friday is one of the store’s top 10 days.
“From a business perspective it’s completely worth it to pay the time and a half that we’re obligated to pay our staff for those days,” she said, adding her staff fight over who gets to work on those holidays because of the extra pay.
“I have to actually be really careful that I’m fairly allotting everybody their stat holidays throughout the year.”
Fraser also said that being open on those holidays helps Frabert’s attract new customers.
“If they’re looking for groceries on a stat holiday and the chains are all closed it’s an opportunity to get them in our store,” she said.
“They keep coming back.”
She said having other downtown retailers open on statutory holidays would help everyone.
“The more stores that are open, the more that people would come out and shop and visit around in downtown so it helps all of us,” she said.
Councillor Kirk McElwain asked Jefferson if Fergus retailers had recently made more of a commitment to be open on holidays and Sundays.
“It’s always been a bit of a struggle just because we have some businesses that have been in place for 20 years and 25 years that kind of feel that they make their money Monday to Friday and that they’re more of a business that draws people down Monday to Saturday and that Sundays aren’t something that they’re really wanting to consider,” Jefferson explained.
However, she said there is a new energy and a number of new storefronts in the downtown.
More and more are open on Sundays for at least a portion of the year.
“Mentalities change, new blood comes in and things get a little bit more positive,” she said.
“So we do have a really good positive atmosphere in our downtown and everybody’s seeing the changes and seeing the beautification and the marketing that we’re doing and they’re actually seeing the results now.”
Council unanimously passed the bylaw to allow businesses within the Fergus BIA boundary to be open on statutory holidays.
The bylaw will take effect on April 25.