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Many now-shuttered B.C. businesses not confident they will reopen: survey

Last Updated Apr 21, 2020 at 7:42 am PDT

FILE: Many businesses have been forced to shut down or scale back their operations amid the coronavirus pandemic. (CityNews Vancouver)
Summary

Many businesses in B.C. are unsure if they'll be able to reopen after the pandemic

Of the businesses that remain open, many say they don't think they'll last more than three months under restrictions

While government programs are able to help some people, local business leaders note many are still being left behind

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – It’s a dire situation for businesses in B.C., both those who are closed amid the pandemic, and those who remain open.

According to a recent survey conducted by the BC Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, the Business Council of B.C., and others, 43 per cent of business owners say they will only be able to continue operating for up to three months under current restrictions.

However, when it comes to businesses that have been forced to close temporarily due to the pandemic, 53 per cent expect they’ll be able to reopen once they are allowed to.

“Businesses are doing everything possible to remain viable, but an increasing number are reaching the point of no return,” Bridgitte Anderson, President & CEO, Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, says in a release. “There is a small window to support the survival and eventual recovery of a significant number of businesses and it is, to a great extent, reliant on the scale and speed of government support, including the recently announced Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program.”

According to the survey, conducted with the help of the Mustel Group, 38 per cent of businesses are unsure of what the future will hold, while only eight per cent say they will not reopen.

Bottom lines have been hit hard by the health crisis, which has forced people into self-isolation, putting many businesses either out of business for the time being or running on limited services.

While it’s already known the pandemic has driven a decline in revenue for most, the survey finds conditions continue to worsen.

“Approximately half of all businesses (54% up from 48% in the first survey) state they have experienced revenue decreases of 75% or more while two-thirds (66%) have had revenues drop by 50% or more,” the survey findings read.

While government programs are able to help some people, local business leaders note many are still being left behind.

“Government programs are helping businesses but more supports are still needed,” Val Litwin, President & CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce, says in a release. “Entrepreneurs are saying ‘there’s a survival runway here’ and ‘this is exactly what I need to get through this crisis’. How government listens and responds to the business community in the coming weeks will be the game-changer in terms of economic recovery.”

The survey finds just more than half of respondents believe the programs will help, but not for 33 per cent of businesses that either don’t qualify or won’t be able to make use of what’s offered.

When it comes to provincial support, one-third of business owners surveyed say they don’t find those programs helpful. The main reason they say this is because they don’t qualify, business groups say.

When it comes to reopening, a number of businesses identified attracting customers and revenue as a main point of concern. Other issues they foresee include having enough money to operate and rehiring staff.