As the weather gets colder and COVID-19 cases start to rise again, more Canadians are looking to extend patio season by adding a space heater to their outdoor space.
The demand for patio heaters has grown so much that retailers are struggling to keep them in stock, according to the Retail Council of Canada.
The council’s vice president of public affairs, Kal Littler, said the products “have stolen from the shelves,” with demand coming from both commercial and residential customers.
Catherine Miller Mort, of Toronto, said she bought a patio heater for her home to allow her children to play with friends outside on colder days.
“We want to be able to extend that fun through fall and winter if we can, and I know we won’t be comfortable doing that indoors,” Mort said.
She said she searched several retailers for a patio heater, but was slow to find one.
“A lot of the smaller, electric models that I looked at that weren’t as expensive were sold in a lot of places,” Mort said.
One of those retailers, The Home Depot Canada, told The Canadian Press it had seen increased interest in outdoor heaters, fireplaces and fire tables.
Communications manager Alyssa Haw said customers bought more outdoor heating products throughout the season compared to last year.
Haw said Home Depot saw the most significant increase in May or June, when COVID-19 lockdowns had just started, and again in September, “as customers look to extend the season and stay in outside.
Canadian Tire also said it anticipates Canadians will look for ways to extend the season with the help of outdoor heaters, barbecues and charcoal.
But the demand for patio heaters is not just coming from homeowners. There is also a high demand for them for commercial spaces such as bars and restaurants, according to Littler.
“Anything they can do to extend the season (decks) that they can be open is a big deal,” Littler said.
The city of Toronto announced Friday that it is allowing portable heaters in all outdoor patios, including sidewalk lane closures for its CafeTO program, to help restaurants keep their outdoor dining spaces open.
James Rilett, Restaurants Canada vice-president for central Canada, called it a “big gesture”.
“Every little bit helps… (I’m) happy that they are continuing the program.”