Business closures and reduced hours are at an all-time high across Canada, as precautions are being taken by business owners to protect employees and customers from the novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19.
But the stoppages have had a significant impact on local businesses in Manitoba, according to Jonathan Alward, director of provincial affairs at the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).
Business owners are encouraging staff to work from home, but Alward said that’s created staffing issues.
“They have had a dramatic drop off in their sales, like retail or, certainly, the restaurant and hospitality sectors. ”
Many local restaurants remain empty, and some are even choosing to close their doors. Recently, the King’s Head Pub in Winnipeg announced that it is temporarily shutting its doors as a precaution.
“How long can you withstand that kind of a hit to your bottom line at a time when you want to keep your staff employed because they need the certainty as well?” Alward said.
Alward said a lot of the uncertainty depends on customers, adding that he hopes Manitobans will go out of their way to support local businesses during these difficult times.
“As customers, we can’t lose sight of the fact that our communities rely on small businesses every day,” he said.
But there are other options that don’t involve sitting in a crowded restaurant or standing in a busy line to help support Manitoba’s independent businesses, according to Alward.
“Some businesses have online shops, so buy online — restaurants, in particular, and retail, buy gift cards. Even if you’re not going to shop there right now, it could help them stay afloat and help keep their staff working and paid as well,” said Alward.
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He also suggests ordering takeout from local restaurants, as many who previously didn’t offer takeout have now started to pivot in that direction as an option for customers.
Alward shared that the federal government has also started offering help, including eliminating the week-long waiting period for employment insurance.
He expects information later this week on specifically how long business owners can withstand the cash hold problems and just how much of a drop in sales they’ve been experiencing.
“Make a conscious effort to buy local and support local economy, and they always support us back,” he said.
CFIB has made its helpline available for members and non-members, given the circumstances of COVID-19, at 1-888-234-2232.