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Downtown Orillia stores extend hours one day a week to encourage shopping local

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Stores in downtown Orillia will have extended hours once a week through the holiday season to encourage shoppers to keep it local in a bid to compete with online and big box store retailers.

Patricia Cousineau, the Bird House Nature Company owner, initiated the idea.

"In the past, there has been a late Friday night Christmas sale where everybody kind of jumps on board and stays open one Friday night. It didn't happen last year, and it wasn't scheduled to run again this year," she noted.

Store owners were eager to get on board, saying their businesses needed the extra traffic after being hindered by factors out of their control, including a significant restructuring in the city's Business Improvement Area.

"Laclie Street's been worked on, the West Street bridge has been worked on, the port has all been closed. So, I'm guessing in talking to other merchants, we saw about a third less foot traffic this summer alone," Cousineau explained.

With more people shopping online, many Orillia shop owners have had to change their approach to try and compete.

"Everybody is using their social media as much as they can to let people know, 'Here is what we have, here is what's on sale, come see us, come downtown," Cousineau added.

The extended hours will start Thursday and run every Thursday until December 21 at more than 30 downtown stores.

It's also worth noting that downtown parking is free after 5:30 p.m., and Paper Planes Play Café will also be open late to provide a place for kids to be entertained while parents shop.

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