A recent survey conducted by the BC Chamber of Commerce revealed that while British Columbia recently began the vaccination campaign in health recovery efforts, businesses are still struggling amid heightened COVID-19 restrictions. Many BC businesses continue to feel the side effects of the pandemic, some getting hit twice as hard with continued decreased sales volumes (72%), increased operating costs (51%), and laid off employees (35%).
The survey revealed that businesses are leveraging government relief more than they historically have. Of the businesses surveyed, three out of four (73%) reported using at least one form of government support program (up from 65% in July). While struggles continue among high case counts and more restrictions, a third of BC businesses have an optimistic outlook on the next 12 months, with 22% expected to increase their employment levels in the next six months.
The findings are the result of a BC Chamber of Commerce survey of 615 business leaders from December 3 to 18, 2020. This survey is the fifth in a series of pulse checks using the BCMindReader.com platform to assess the COVID-19 impacts on businesses.
With the upcoming BC Budget 2021, much of which will consider the recovery efforts, it is critical to continue supporting business resilience. Business will need additional support, specifically in ways that can help business cashflow and operations, including greater tax relief, wage subsidies and more cash flow relief including rent assistance.
“Economic recovery always starts with business resilience,” says Dan Baxter, Interim CEO, BC Chamber of Commerce. “Our focus is to get as many businesses through this pandemic as possible to enable lasting, sustainable, private-sector driven recovery in the years ahead. This can be done by continuing to work closely with our local chambers and boards of trade, business members, and government to ensure the right balance of supports are there for BC businesses.”
This COVID Impact Survey will continue to track the workforce challenges, evolving business needs, and what government can do to help businesses survive in the new year. The information will inform the BC Chamber Network Playbook Project in partnership with the provincial government via the Sector Labour Market Partnership (SLMP) Program. The Project, funded by the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training, involves developing and distributing through the BC Chamber Network, region-specific playbooks to help small businesses respond to COVID-19 related workforce and operational challenges throughout each of BC’s seven regions.
Other Key Survey Findings
- Impacts on businesses from the COVID-19 pandemic are similar to those reported in previous pulse checks. The most common impact continues to be decreased sales volume, reported by 72% of businesses.
- 51% (higher proportion than in the past) reporting increasing operating costs, likely due to costs associated with new restrictions.
- 62% of businesses report that their revenue has decreased by over 25% since the pandemic began.
- 22% of businesses report that they expect to operate for 6 months or less given current restrictions, support measures, and operating costs.
- Businesses report that top factors limiting their ability to increase sales or production include:
- Insufficient domestic demand (50%)
- Shortage of working capital (25%)
- Insufficient foreign demand (24%)
Government Recovery Plan and Support
- 73% of businesses are using some form of government support program to assist during COVID (up from 65% in July). The most useful program has been the CEWS program (48%), followed by CEBA (45%), and CERB (26%).
- Additional government support programs would be most helpful if they provide:
- Greater tax relief (45%)
- More support for wages (40%)
- More / more effective cash flow relief (32%)
Long Term Impacts
- Businesses report using more new digital solutions as a result of the pandemic. Adoption included new online meeting tools (63%), digital payment solutions (46%), online education tools (45%), digital marketing tools (41%), and new e-commerce solutions (28%),
- Since the beginning of the pandemic, business report that the following areas have worsened:
- Cost of doing business (63%)
- Cost of the labour they need (34%)
- Access to labour & availability of workers (33%)
- Employee efficiency (31%)
- Ability to develop new products and services (29%)