By LAURA JONES and JORDI MORGAN
Small Business Week is typically an opportunity to celebrate the local businesses that make our communities unique: the barbershop that always gets your hair just right, the independent grocer that sponsors your kid's hockey team, the print shop down the street that gave you your first job.
This year, things are very different, as small-business owners have been facing extraordinary challenges. Pummelled by months of closures and restrictions, many have had to lay off valued staff and struggled to hire them back. Sales remain dangerously low, with only 30 per cent back to taking in what they did before the pandemic. Some were never able to reopen. Others are barely holding on.
Entrepreneurs in the Atlantic provinces have done an amazing job of adjusting to an extraordinary new reality. With fewer staff, revenues slashed, fewer customers and disrupted supply chains, they have stepped up and helped create the best public health outcomes in the country. All Atlantic Canadians can be proud of the efforts made to keep our infection rates near zero, but the small-business sector deserves special praise. What is most surprising is how they adapted their methods of doing business and showed remarkable resiliency in doing so.
Some have just handed in the keys. According to our most recent research, 14 per cent are actively considering winding down their business or filing for bankruptcy.
Government has played an important role in keeping many firms afloat. The federal programs extended this month will go a long way toward providing a lifeline for many. The provincial government also has a role to play in understanding how they can help the most vulnerable operate with fewer barriers by reducing red tape and not adding additional costs to conducting business. We are still a long way from being out of the woods and, as the weather turns colder, so will the economic outlook for many.
Over the past months, small firms in your community have complied with public health orders at great personal cost because they care and want to protect their customers and their employees. They are doing their part, with physical distancing, increased sanitization and personal protective equipment in place. That's why this Small Business Week, it's more important than ever that Atlantic Canadians step up to thank them for the work they do and show our support.
CFIB has launched the #Smallbusinesseveryday campaign to encourage Canadians to do just that. As we get into the holiday season, we hope you'll make a point of supporting your local independent businesses.
They will thank you for making the effort. In fact, in a recent CFIB survey, business owners expressed how grateful they are for their customers' support.
One said: “Thank you for your loyalty. The day that we closed our doors, we sent our staff home, saying we'll pay them until the middle of April. Our customers went online the very next day. We had to call our staff back in and we are all working ever since. The frequent inquiries on how we are doing are much appreciated. We can't do it without them.”
CFIB has launched the Big Thank You contest this week. Consumers can enter to win a box of goodies by nominating their favourite business at smallbusinesseveryday.ca. There is no better time to celebrate the power of gratitude and support our Atlantic Canadian communities.
Laura Jones is executive vice-president and chief strategic officer and Jordi Morgan is Atlantic vice-president at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.