Canada

Survey offers snapshot of B.C.'s struggling business sector

Papa’s experience echoes a disturbing survey released by British Columbia’s business community today that shows three quarters of 1,401 business leaders polled were dealing with decreased sales, 42 per cent had laid off staff and 40 per cent were dealing with increased operating costs.

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade and the Business Council of British Columbia’s fourth COVID-19 snapshot also reported businesses were not particularly confident with the provincial government’s economic reopening plan, and were calling for payroll or wage supports and fee and tax reductions.

The survey found 65 per cent of business leaders were using some sort of government support, the most useful being the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy. And only 28 per cent expected to return to normal once the government support ended.

Bridgitte Anderson, CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, said that early in the pandemic, businesses thought things would return to normal within a year. But now, into the fourth month of the pandemic in B.C., they were realizing it would be a longer recovery.

“It’s aligned with health and safety and confidence, and for many people that means a vaccine,” Anderson said. “Restrictions on tourism and in-person gatherings wont be eased until there is a vaccine. All of it is interconnected.”

Anderson said there was an urgent need for the province to create a “bold action plan.”

“The viability of many businesses hinges on the government acting quickly in rolling out a recovery plan that restores consumer confidence, provides support measures necessary to help with wages, reduces costs and fees, while taking meaningful steps toward creating a competitive and resilient business environment that will stimulate our economic recovery,” she said.

The provincial government has set aside $1.5 billion for a recovery plan but is seeking public views before it is unveiled.

Papa said he would like the government to regulate the transaction fees that credit/debit card companies charge small businesses and to implement tax relief of some kind.

A report released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business on Wednesday showed that almost half of the 4,500 small businesses surveyed had taken on an average $135,000 in debt since the pandemic began.

dcarrigg@postmedia.com

Vancouver coffee shop owner Bruno Papa is hanging in there.

Papa reopened his Kitsilano café on April 22 after being closed for a month, but now faces increased costs, reduced sales and an uncertain future — and is dependant on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine that will cure his business woes.

“I am happy that I can at least open my business and make the best of it,” said Papa, who had a thriving business with nine employees before the pandemic. He is down to one full-time and one part-time worker, plus him. He is working as a barista all day every day the café is open.

“Operating costs have gone up due to the fact that we no longer offer ceramic mugs, plates and cutlery,” Papa said.

“We are making everything in disposable cups, lids, sleeves and all sandwiches and food are all wrapped to go. Secondly everyone is paying with credit or debit card, (so) we incur the high processing fees associated with these companies.”

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