There are no longer any pandemic restrictions limiting how businesses operate, but for many small businesses, bouncing back after two years of pandemic pressures is an ongoing battle.
“Our two stores have been really struggling. We’ve seen the lowest sales in a long time in the past six months or so,” said Kate Pepler, owner of The Tare Shop, which has a location in Halifax and one in Dartmouth.
The latter shop opened in 2021, and shortly afterwards the province locked down, with strict restrictions on businesses lasting months.
“It’s just been really hard to bounce back from all the closures,” said Pepler.
Her business is not alone in struggling to recover. A recent survey from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) found that 60 per cent of small businesses haven’t been able to return to normal sales levels. One of the challenges is how the pandemic has changed people’s routines.
“Everybody’s habits have changed so much,” said Pepler.
“So maybe people are working from home so they don’t have their normal route through the store and grabbing a coffee, or coming to do their grocery shop on their way home from work.”
Another challenge for businesses is repaying debt. Sixty-five per cent of businesses incurred pandemic-related debt in the last two years to help stay afloat. Payments for those debts are starting up, just as the cost of nearly everything is mounting.
“Businesses are still living with the reality of increasing costs and inflation,” said Louis-Philippe Gauthier with CFIB.
“We’re seeing that not only on wages, so wages are going up and insurance costs are going up, costs of fuel is going up, so a lot of challenges in that perspective.”
Despite everything, Gauthier notes that small businesses are more optimistic than they’ve been throughout the pandemic about recovery, especially as summer approaches and many are trying to put the pandemic behind them.
For Pepler, summer isn’t typically a busy time of year, but she, too, is optimistic her business will bounce back, though she admits she needs some help, with one of her major challenges at the moment being cash flow.
“We’ve faced a lot of supply chain issues, so we’ve gotten in a bind of we need the sales to purchase the inventory, but we need the inventory to make the sales,” said Pepler.
On Monday she posted on Instagram outlining some of the struggles her shops have faced over the past two years, and launched a crowdfunding campaign to get help from the community.
“We’re asking the community to invest in us,” she said.
“A lot of the perks are gift cards, so if you give $25 you get a $25 gift card, so it’s a win-win.”
In just a day of the crowdfunding campaign being live, The Tare Shop is already over halfway to its goal. Pepler says she’s overwhelmed by the support she’s received but says her business is not the only one struggling and so she encourages everyone to prioritize buying local right now.
“There’s so much support for local but we need that to keep going, we need that momentum to grow as well,” said Pepler.