Small businesses are especially vulnerable to changes in the economy, like those brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Laura Jones, Executive Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), explains why a supportive customer base is the key to small business survival.
Why is it important that people support small businesses right now?
Small businesses were walloped by COVID-19 and many have had to shut their doors. Sales went way down and in many cases valued staff had to be laid off. Stress, fatigue, and anxiety went through the roof. As reopening continues, revenue and staff levels are still far from normal and many business owners — including well-established ones — are just fighting to keep their businesses from closing permanently. Customers can make all the difference right now. Small purchases and kind words add up fast when there are lots of people participating.
What is the #SmallBusinessEveryDay campaign about?
The campaign is all about letting consumers know how important they are to businesses’ survival. We profile the many great initiatives out there to help small businesses on our website in the hope that it will make it a bit easier and more fun for people to support their favourites. It’s a one-stop-shop to find out about everything from extra points for shopping local to new contests and special “shop local” days. We know many groups have cool things planned right through the fall.
You have posters promoting shopping that say “we survive with your support.” What inspired this idea?
We survey small businesses regularly and when we were thinking about what to put on the posters, we asked them what they wanted to say to their customers. A lot of them really wanted to say thank you and one business owner actually wrote “we survive with your support,” which we felt captured the spirit of the campaign.
We want business owners to survive and thrive again because they’re such important presences in our communities. It’s great to see the poster popping up in store windows to reinforce the message.
Part of the campaign is a small business recovery dashboard. What are the latest numbers?
Our dashboard is showing that about 6 in 10 Canadian businesses are now fully open, but the vast majority aren’t back to normal revenues or staffing. It’s critical for the economic recovery that we change that picture for the better.
How difficult has the pandemic been for small businesses?
Words can’t really describe it. We’ve already taken 45,000 calls so far this year — more that we typically do in a full year. Many are worried about the impact on their families of losing their livelihoods. Coping with the challenges of navigating recovery programs, figuring out how to pay rent, worrying about a second wave, and trying to find staff who are willing to work as reopening continues — these are just a small sample of the worries small business owners are facing.