Consumers in Alberta are being urged to shop locally to help small businesses stay afloat this holiday season, as they continue to grapple with the economic woes of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The next few weeks are usually the busiest money-making time for small businesses in the province, but the novel coronavirus has curtailed some of that spending this year.
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) told Global News this is a critical time for many businesses in Calgary and across the province.
“Small businesses are in a vulnerable position right now and are barely hanging on,” CFIB Alberta director of provincial affairs, Annie Dormuth, said.
Dormuth said surveys over the past several months have shown an alarming trend when it comes to sales expectations, hiring and growth projections.
“Our small business recovery rates have really just stagnated,” she said.
Calgary business owner Nancy Geomans has seen her pie business go up and down over the past few months.
The co-owner of Pie Junkie Bakery has opened up three shops in the last four years, hoping to provide Calgary with another option for traditional pies.
“We wanted to create a product that wasn’t in Calgary. We wanted to create a product that, quite frankly, there was a hole in the market,” she said. “We make everything from scratch. So it’s all butter pastry — it’s all made by hand.”
She also urged shoppers to spend their money locally, where it makes a difference.
“Local businesses are about family,” she said. “We support a lot of families in Calgary. I’d like to say 20 families plus in Calgary by making pie the way it should be made.”
Geomans added she’s not trying to compete with box stores, who have been getting a lot of shoppers’ food dollars during the pandemic.
“No we don’t try to,” she said. “Big box stores don’t make pie — they make a product that resembles a pie.”
Still, she has done what she can to improve her sales, including launching an e-commerce site along with city-wide delivery options.
“We need to remain competitive. We want to make ourselves as easily accessible to our customers — or potential customers — because we’re trying to stay alive.”
Dormuth said many small business owners in Alberta have taken steps to encourage shoppers to buy locally, including virtual markets and other online options.
“Small businesses are the most nimble and adaptable entrepreneurs out there,” she said.
She added that adaptation was especially admirable considering the headwinds they faced that larger retailers did not.
“There was a very unfair playing field for small businesses.
Tips for a successful sales period
- Create a plan of action early by setting goals and stocking shelves
- Hiring enough staff to meet customers’ needs
- Offering different payment and pick-up options, including curbside pickup
- Improving online presence
- Considering outdoor pop-up shops
- Making a plan to keep customers safe