Nickey Miller, left, and Josie Rudderham, co-owners of Cake and Loaf in Hamilton, Ont., pose outside of their Dundurn Street South storefront location, Monday, October 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tara Walton

Nickey Miller, left, and Josie Rudderham, co-owners of Cake and Loaf in Hamilton, Ont., pose outside of their Dundurn Street South storefront location, Monday, October 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tara Walton

For small businesses that survive COVID, recovery is expected to be difficult

CFIB wants the government to help small business owners recover by suspending evictions

Having 12 cases of mini eggs on hand sounds like the makings of a grandiose Easter hunt or the ultimate way to soothe a sweet tooth, but for Josie Rudderham, the confections have put her in quite the crunch.

“We have joked about pouring them into a bathtub and doing a photo shoot because there is enough to do that, but really they are part of the cycle of investing in ingredients to make a lot of sales that didn’t happen,” said Rudderham, the co-owner of Cake and Loaf in Hamilton, Ont.

She spent the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic closing one of her two bakeries, taking on debt, laying off workers during the busy Easter season and offering curbside pickup, but the boxes remain. Worse still, she believes her business won’t fully recover for another decade.

The projections are quite similar for most of the country’s 1.14 million small businesses still lamenting empty dining rooms, stores and cash registers, and fretting about how they can rebound from the pandemic’s economic impacts.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says a survey of its 110,000 members shows only 26 per cent of small businesses are reporting normal sales volumes, leaving the remainder at risk of insolvency.

Those that do survive aren’t likely to emerge from the pandemic unscathed. The CFIB estimated in June, before Canadian COVID-19 infections began rising again, that small businesses will incur $117 billion in debt that could take more than a year to pay off.

“The majority of them have said that they are losing money every day that they are openand I guess the question is how much longer can that happen,” said CFIB president Dan Kelly.

Reversing the trend will take a return of sales at a time when many businesses can’t get COVID-friendly insurance, patio season is coming to an end, offices are showing no signs of reopening and Ontario and Quebec are plunging into second waves.

READ MORE: B.C. parties battle over tax promises to recover from COVID-19

CFIB wants the government to help small business owners recover by suspending evictions and property seizures for shuttered businesses and providing immediate financial support to cover ongoing costs like rent and taxes.

Sheila Block, a senior economist with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, also believes public coffers have a role to play in the rebound, but warned government relief isn’t a cure-all.

“The only thing that will ensure that small businesses can come back to life is the public health situation and that is going to take some time,” she said.

While the wait continues for a COVID-19 vaccine, Kendall Barber is keen on getting Poppy Barley, the Edmonton-based footwear company she co-owns with her sister, back on its feet.

When COVID-19 struck, the pair temporarily shut down their two Alberta stores, laid off some workers and put plans for pop-ups across the country on hold.

“All of our factories closed, so we had no ability to get products, and even developing our fall collection was hard because tanneries and facilities were closed and located in countries that are much harder hit by COVID-19 than we have been here in Canada,” said Kendall.

Poppy Barley reverted to its roots in e-commerce. Fans of the brand made purchases online, but not enough to make up for what was lost from closures.

Recovery, said Barber, will now rely on meeting the customer where they are.

For Poppy Barley, that means slowly bringing back pop-ups in 2021 and shifting to meet new consumer needs with fewer high heels, footwear made from ultra soft materials that don’t need breaking in and a plant-based collection.

For many small businesses, which have grappled with layoffs, rent problems and mounting bills, recovery will also mean leaning on customers.

“The simple answer is shop, buy their food, spend your money with them,” said Barber.

“On the darkest days getting a great email from someone saying, ‘Keep going. I love what you’re doing’ has also been really meaningful.”

Changing business models will also be a big piece of recovering, said Rudderham.

“I don’t know that I want to get back to the way things used to be, to be perfectly honest,” she said. “I’m not sure that was actually healthy for anyone.”

Before the pandemic, her business took pre-orders and opened six days a week for walk-in purchases, requiring bakers to speculate on what and how much to make each day.

Busy seasons or large orders would sometimes mean overnight shifts to have product ready by morning.

Rudderham envisions a switch where the business could focus primarily on pre-orders and curbside pickup, giving workers steady hours and eliminating the need to employ counter staff to await drop-in customers.

The economics, she said, would allow the business to focus on larger orders and supplying other retailers like a nearby co-op, instead of hoping for people to walk in for a coffee or muffin.

Rudderham isn’t sure how many of those ideas will be implemented, but insists deep thought is key to any recovery.

“This is a chance for everybody to reassess what is really important about the way we live our lives and how we run our businesses because the normal that existed before the pandemic is not a normal that was working for everyone.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronaviruseconomy

Just Posted

From left: Thomas Kuecks, David Lane, John Ivison, Denis Berger, Rod Gray, and James Kuecks are Cabin Fever. Catch their performance on the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre website. (Ashley Foot photo)
A&E column: Music Festival winners, CVAC awards, and Cabin Fever

The latest from the Cowichan Valley arts and entertainment community

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
Cowichan Valley MLA Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

BC Green Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

The city-owned lot at 361 St. Julien St., which has been home to a temporary homeless site for more than a year, will be sold and plans are to build a three-storey mixed-use development there, Peter de Verteuil, Duncan CAO explained at a recent council meeting. (File photo)
New development planned for homeless site in Duncan

Lot on St. Julien Street would see three-storey building

Historian and longtime Citizen columnist T.W. Paterson photographs the historical wreckage of a plane on Mount Benson. Paterson recently won an award from the British Columbia Historical Foundation. (Submitted)
Cowichan’s Tom W. Paterson wins award for historical writing

British Columbia Historical Federation hands Recognition Award to local writer

This electric school bus is the newest addition to the Cowichan Valley School District’s fleet. (Submitted)
Editorial: New electric school bus good place to start

Changing public transit like buses to electric really is important.

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read