OTTAWA -- On day one of the new stay-at-home orders across Ontario, there was little traffic on Ottawa streets and some big box stores saw fewer lines.

The new rules under Ontario's State of Emergency, the third since the start of the pandemic, and stay-at-home order means big box retailers can no longer sell non-essential items.

The parking lot of the Costco in Barrhaven was virtually empty on Thursday, compared to lockdown past. Customer Jenna Yuill, who stopped at the superstore to grab some groceries for her family, says inside, it was much the same. 

"It’s great in there; the staff were great. It’s empty," says Yuill. "I was surprised to see how they cordoned everything off. They’ve done it strategically; all the food blocks all the isles and you can’t get anywhere other than to food."

Along with food, home cleaning products are available as well as medicine, vitamins and personal care products like shampoo. Baby products such as diapers and wipes are also available to purchase.

As part of Ontario’s stay at home order, big box stores can no longer sell non-essential items like they have been allowed during the past lockdowns.

On Thursday in-person shopping at malls closed, garden centres can operate at 25 per cent capacity and restaurants can only provide take-out and delivery options. Golf courses will remain open and in Ottawa, schools and childcare centres can as well.

Non-essential retail shops can operate as curb-side pickup and delivery only. While lockdowns are tough for any businesses, Natalie Peterman, who owns three Party Mart stores in the region, says the government’s move to limit big-box stores to essential only, levels the playing field for small shops.

"Third time around they got it finally right," says Peterman. "I understand that there will be a lot of people will be upset that the non-essential isles in the big-box stores are closed down, however, for small businesses like myself and many other types of businesses in our industry having those overlapping items not available for sale that’s a win for us."

Party Mart sells balloons and supplies for celebrations.

Peterman hopes the move will create a resurgence of customers who will choose to stay closer to home. While she thanks the community for their support throughout the pandemic, Peterman admits the lockdowns are not just financial hits, they are emotional as well.

"It was very difficult to call 23 employees last night to let them know we’re back into layoff situation," says Peterson, adding that the staff have become like family. The hope is that the new measures will help reduce transmission, to keep more people safe and spread out.

"Let’s just get this done and move on because we got to be able to move on."