CFIB’s latest Small Business Recovery Dashboard results show that in Saskatchewan, 76 per cent of small businesses are fully open (up 17 per cent since June), 43 per cent are fully staffed (up 7 per cent since June), 27 per cent are making normal sales (up 8 per cent since June).
Although they seem to be going up, these numbers still leave a lot to be desired.
“Recovery is still a long way off. Saskatchewan small business sales struggle to reignite. Small businesses are big players in our economy and minimizing their losses is critical to our recovery. Right now both government support and consumer behavior are critical to transitioning back to the conditions that allowed businesses to survive and thrive,” says Marilyn Braun-Pollon, CFIB’s vice-president of Western Canada and Agri-business.
“Just one in four (businesses) are seeing their usual sales so now more than ever local businesses need our support.”
Small business every day
Although things are slowly getting back to normal, Braun-Pollon feels that it is important to chose local.
“Small actions can make a big difference. Whether it is your local hardware store or pet shop or bakery, everyone needs to be mindful in the coming weeks by choosing small businesses every day and giving them a chance to to survive,” says Braun-Pollon.
In Saskatchewan 6,200 businesses are at risk of closing. That is one in six businesses currently and that number does not include the businesses that already closed.
“Saskatchewan can see as few as 1,600 businesses closing their doors permanently or at the high end as many as 8,500 depending on how the recovery goes,” says Braun-Pollon.
The sectors that are being hit hardest include businesses in the arts and recreations sector (gyms, venues arcades) that is at risk of losing 30 per cent of their businesses permanently, and the hospitality sector (restaurants, hotels, catering) which can see about 27 per cent of their businesses closing.
“Those are staggering numbers and it is all pretty concerning. These sectors have also seen the lowest numbers in being fully open. They are just having a tough time. This summer has been a hard one for some small businesses. As we all drive and walk through the neighbourhoods we can see the shops are open and the restaurants are open and so some may believe that business is back to normal, but it is not. Behind the counter, the story is often very different,” says Braun-Pollon.
Although the CFIB is continuing their campaign to get people to shop at small businesses, they also feel that the government can do more to help during these troubled times.
“From a consumer perspective we just need continued support for these businesses to survive. We encourage everyone to take the ‘Small business every day’ challenge, by shopping at your local retailers and encouraging your family and friends to do the same. I also think that other changes are needed. It is critical that the federal government continue to adjust programs like The Canadian Emergency Business Account(CEBA), by increasing the loan amount (from $40,000 to $60,000) and increasing the forgivable portion from 25 per cent to 50 per cent. That will allow businesses more cash flow to cover fixed costs,” explains Braun-Pollon.
Another government assistance program that needs to be adjusted according to Braun-Pollon is the Canadian Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program (CECRA).
“We are disappointed that the federal government has not provided any reassurance that this extension will provide relief to tenants who have not had access to this program. Many have been shut out either because landlords not participating or because of the 70 per cent revenue loss requirement. It is way too high. The program has been grossly under-utilized relative to its funding. Today’s numbers show that only a quarter of the allocated budget has been spent. When we see that nationally one out of seven businesses currently at risk of permanently closing, we are calling on the federal and provincial finance ministers to work together and create those necessary changes to that program allowing tenants to apply directly and reducing the revenue reduction requirement. The Saskatchewan financial minister has raised these concerns of the CECRA program, she has urged the federal financial minister to fix the flawed program and get the rent relief directly to tenants,” says Braun-Pollon.
The CFIB has had incredible communication with their members over these last few months and that has resulted in many positive changes.
“In 18 weeks we have done 18 surveys and we have been asking our members what is working and what isn’t. That has resulted in a number of changes. The wage subsidy started out at 10 per cent. We pushed to get that up to 75 per cent, we also pushed to extend the subsidies. We wanted more small firms to be able to participate in the wage subsidies by removing and reducing the 30 per cent revenue loss cap,” says Braun-Pollon.
The CFIB has listened to their members and the Sasaktchewan government has listened to CFIB and this all resulted in the necessary changes that has helped small businesses during the pandemic. However there is still work to be done.
“We believe there is more help needed to ensure the economy recovers as quickly and safely as possible. We are still far away from seeing business as usual in Saskatchewan. We have made some pretty common sense recommendations at the provincial level, on things like redirecting the unused funds from CECRA to help businesses pay for rent or pay for PPE costs. We also asked if we could further extend the commercial eviction protection or further reduce red tape. There is a number of things we have been asking the government to consider as we look at making sure we have a successful recovery,” says Braun-Pollon.
Help will clearly be needed in the future since the impact of the pandemic will be felt for a long time to come.
“As of July 2, (Saskatchewan small businesses) have taken on an average of $92,000 in debt and more concerning is that more than half of those businesses think it will take them more than six months to get back to normal profitability and one in three say it will take them more than a year,” says Braun-Pollon.
This is why the CFIB is calling on Saskatchewan citizens to go out and support their local shops.
“If you look at the number of businesses that may close, this is a critical time to not only have the government support but the consumer support to allow these businesses to survive and thrive. So, those next pair of shoes or birthday cake you are going to buy, make sure you go to a small business rather than a big box store,” says Braun-Pollon.