WINDSOR, ONT. -- As Ontario residents settle in to another stay-at-home order, retailers big and small are also adjusting to the new rules.

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.

A walk through of big box stores like Wal-Mart shows large sections of the store cordoned off, and signs posted indicating a 25 per cent capacity of customers allowed inside at one time.

Superstores are only allowed to sell essential items like food, pharmacy items and cleaning supplies.

“It should have just been groceries and essential from the start,” one shopper told CP24.

And it’s sparking confusion over what is considered essential, and what isn’t.

At Dollar Tree in Amherstburg, there’s a sign is posted on the door indicating what customers will be able to look at inside the store, but not purchase. That list includes toys, party supplies, catering items, greeting cards, tableware, glassware and kitchenware. Also listed is stationary, crafts, hardware, electronics, paint, frames, candles, clothing, jewellery, and books.

“This way if they have to block off those non-essential items, maybe people will think twice and come here to get it, instead of just going to the big box stores,” says Lori Wightman, an employee at River Bookshop in Amherstburg.

Wightman applauds the government for taking this step to give smaller stores a fighting chance.

“If you level the playing field a bit, the big box stores aren’t going to suffer that much, but you might just save a small business,” she says.

While some shoppers are frustrated over the rules, which will stay in effect for at least 28 days, Sara Palmer sees this as a life-line for small business.

“I always like to support local as best as possible,” says Palmer, who believes the real threat to small business right now is online giant Amazon. But consumers have a choice, she says.

“What do we want to leave behind for our children?” she asks. “We don’t want to regret down the line 20 years that we didn’t put in the effort to keep those businesses alive.”

Even though small retailers can only offer curb-side pickup, Wightman suggests instead of online browsing, get out for some exercise and take to the sidewalks for some good old fashioned window-shopping.

“(Small businesses) are the heart of the community, and if that heart stops beating, then your community’s gone,” Wightman says.