KITCHENER -- Waterloo Region residents are expressing their confusion and frustration when it comes to the new stay-at-home order rules, restrictions, and closures.

The stay-at-home order came into effect for all of Ontario on Thursday at 12:01 a.m. and means non-essential items are off-limits in big box stores, while other retail locations have to close to customers once again.

At one shopping plaza on Fairway Road in Kitchener, stores like Dollarama, Food Basics, and LCBO are allowed to remain open to customers, while stores like Homesense, Marshalls, and EB Games are not allowed to have the public inside.

“Nothing makes sense to me, nothing,” one shopper tells CTV News. “I’m really confused, I don’t know where this is going, and everyone I talk to has no clue what’s going on.”

Under the province’s emergency stay-at-home order, non-essential retailers are only allowed to operate for curbside pickup and delivery via appointment and between the hours of 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. Delivery of drop-offs are allowed between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Safety supply and optical stores are some of the stores allowed by the province to open for in-person retail by appointment only.

Meanwhile, essential retailers are only allowed to sell grocery items, pet care supplies, household cleaning supplies, pharmaceutical items, health care items, and personal care items.

These stores are blocking aisles and putting up signs to let customers know about the rules, but many still say they feel confused.

“It feels very random and very arbitrary what’s going being closed and what’s not being closed,” another shopper tells CTV News. “Then they’ll shut down a few places for a few weeks and then everything’s opening back up and then we wonder why this pandemic has lasted over a year.”

Some small business owners said it can be difficult to understand the ever-changing rules.

"Big box stores are allowed to sell essential items, but I sell essential items," said Robyn Hobbs, the owner of Le Prix. "But, it doesn't say small businesses can sell essential items."

Hobbs said her store sells clothes, along with personal care items. She said it's about time big box stores face the same restrictions as smaller stores during lockdowns.

"How did it take you three times to actually start doing that?" Hobbes said. "But, you're still leaving small businesses out that have the same list of essential items."

Under the stay-at-home order, these stores can offer in-person shopping by appointment only at 25 per cent capacity:

  • Safety supply stores;
  • Businesses that primarily sell, rent or repair assistive devices, aids or supplies, mobility devices, aids or supplies or medical devices, aids or supplies;
  • Rental and leasing services including automobile, commercial and light industrial machinery and equipment rental;
  • Optical stores that sell prescription eyewear to the public;
  • Businesses that sell motor vehicles, boats and other watercraft;
  • Vehicle and equipment repair and essential maintenance and vehicle and equipment rental services; and
  • Retail stores operated by a telecommunications provider or service, which may only permit members of the public to enter the premises to purchase a cellphone or for repairs or technical support.

They can be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and delivery is allowed between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Garden centres, plant nurseries and indoor greenhouses can operate at 25 per cent capacity between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.