As Calgarians take advantage of Black Friday deals to start their holiday shopping, city officials are asking people to take their business to local vendors, many of which are still struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, 78 per cent of Alberta small businesses forced to close due to the pandemic have reopened.
The monthly survey from the CFIB also showed 46 per cent of small businesses in the province have returned to normal staffing levels, and just 31 per cent are making revenues equivalent to prior to the pandemic.
CFIB Alberta provincial affairs director Annie Dormuth said the data underscores the importance of the upcoming holiday season for the success of many small businesses.
“It is perhaps even more critical right now just given the amount of COVID-19 related debt small businesses have taken on, and the fact that they are just not really seeing a big return to normal sales,” she said.
“It’s been challenging,” Mary Dela Torre, marketing director at Moonstone Creations, said Friday.
The Indigenous-owned and family-run business operates in Inglewood and sells handmade traditional art from 60 Indigenous makers and artisans.
The shop was forced to pivot when the pandemic struck, which included moving its bead-making classes online.
“We basically send out a kit with all the supplies, an instruction sheet and a video,” Dela Torre said. “This way we’ve been actually able to teach over 500 people how to bead since 2020.”
Moonstone Creations was one of several small businesses in Inglewood to get a visit from Calgary’s mayor on Friday.
Jyoti Gondek toured the businesses, did some shopping and even donned a pair of rollerskates to kick off the City of Calgary’s Shop Local YYC campaign.
“It is really easy to click buttons and shop online,” Gondek said. “What’s even better is getting out of the house, going out with your family (and) getting out to the businesses and restaurants that so desperately need us to support them, not just at this time of the year, but year-round.”
According to Gondek, $58 is sent back into the local economy for every $100 spent in a small business.
Through the city’s campaign, Calgarians are being asked to share the local businesses they are finding by using the hashtag #SupportLocalYYC.
“You can find things you might not have expected, you can interact with people who live in your city and in your neighbourhood, and you can have a good event out of it rather than just acquiring an object,” Nerd Roller Skates owner Roxy Acetylene said.
Despite the struggles faced by small business because of the pandemic, the CFIB said optimism amongst businesses in Alberta is higher than last year.
CFIB survey results showed that 64 per cent of Alberta small businesses felt the 2021 holiday shopping season will be better for business compared to last year.
“There’s a little bit more optimism this year in comparison to last” Dormuth said. “However, still, a lot of small businesses fear that most consumers have maybe made that permanent shift to big box online shopping.”
Gondek’s small business tour came just days after city council passed adjustments to this year’s budget which are expected to result in a tax rate increase of 3.87 per cent. That prompted criticism from the Calgary Chamber of Commerce, which said the budget “lacks certainty and stability for Calgary businesses.”
Gondek said businesses may still need to rely on supports from other levels of government to withstand the challenges imposed on them because of the pandemic. But she reiterated the city’s commitment to supporting the business community.
“As a city, we are still incredibly committed to doing what we can,” she said.
“I know that the small business task force was absolutely critical in helping us understand how to support small businesses, and we will continue to listen to the things they tell us.”
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