Even after the lifting of restrictions in Alberta, local mid-sized and small businesses continue to endure the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
COVID-19 hammered businesses in 2020. Statistics Canada estimates that the Canadian Economy contracted 11.6 per cent in April 2020, followed by a 7.5 per cent drop in March.
Alberta was hit doubly hard in 2020, with the lockdown restrictions coming on top of a sluggish energy economy.
“There is obviously the idea of the economic slowdown that’s connected with energy prices, so that’s something that was existing prior pandemic and has continued through,” said Arianne Brady, communications manager with the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), every seven in 10 small business owners have taken on debt due to COVID-19, with the average now reaching almost $170,000 per business.
In total, small businesses in Canada now owe a collective $135 billion and 11 per cent of them may be not able to pay back the amount, says the CFIB. Alberta small businesses are estimated to hold more than $21 billion of debt.
Kanata Trading Post, a retail clothing store located at 8 Ave. S.E. in downtown Calgary, is struggling to get back to normal.
Arun Gupta, who has worked at the store since the pandemic started, says that only one employee is working in the shop at a time. Before the pandemic, usually three employees would be needed to cover one shift.
“Before COVID, we were doing well, I don’t know even now, restrictions are less but our store is not doing well,” said Gupta.
“I think because of fewer visitors or I can say almost no visitor in Calgary these days may be one of the reasons that we are not doing well.”
The Government of Alberta claims that it is helping businesses in every possible way it can. There are several subsidies, grants and relaunch programs provided by the government to support businesses.
“Small businesses are the beating heart of our economy and one of the main reasons that Alberta is seen as Canada’s economic engine,” said Doug Schweitzer, Alberta’s Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister in a statement on Alberta.ca.
Brady suggests that the owners and workers need to pay attention to investments in technology and innovation to survive at this critical time.
And, also, networking and supporting each other.
“There’s a tremendous opportunity in joining the chamber, to build your business and connect with others to doing similar work to create some really interesting collaboration,” said Brady.
Whether that’s enough to get businesses like Kanata Trading Post back to normal remains to be seen.