Alberta small business sales struggle to reignite: CFIB

Tyler Waugh

Less than one in four Alberta small businesses are back to making normal sales, according to new data released Aug. 5 from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s Small Business Recovery Dashboard

And the CFIB says Alberta’s small business owners worry consumer spending is going to continue to be muted even as more businesses reopen across the province.

“This summer has been a hard one for small businesses. As Canadians drive or walk through their neighbourhoods, they see more open shops and restaurants and may believe that businesses are back to normal operations. But behind the counter, the story is often very different,” said Dan Kelly, CFIB president. “Nationally, only a quarter of small firms report their sales are at normal levels, and another quarter remain down by 50 per cent or more.”

CFIB’s latest Small Business Recovery Dashboard results for Alberta show that 67 per cent of small businesses are fully open, which is a nine per cent increase since June.

Thirty six per cent of those businesses are fully staff, up nine per cent since June, and 22 per cent are making normal sales, up one per cent since June.

Nationally, more than three out of five business owners are worried that consumer spending will remain low, even following the COVID-19 crisis. Last week, CFIB released a report showing one in five Alberta small businesses (32,500) are at risk of going under as a result of COVID-19, on top of the ones that have already closed. Alberta could see as few as 13,000 businesses shut their doors permanently or many as 42,000, depending on how its recovery goes.  

“Now, more than ever, Alberta small businesses need consumer support to ensure their businesses survives through the remainder of the summer,” said Keyli Kosiorek, CFIB’s Alberta policy analyst. “We encourage all Albertans to take the #SmallBusinessEveryDay challenge and support small firms by shopping at small local retailers rather than big box stores.” 

A CFIB release on July 30 incidated that small business confidence had improved slightly in July, though on average they are operating at only 53.2 per cent capacity.

The report went on to say that  only 11 per cent of Alberta business owners say their business is in a good state, compared to 48 per cent who say their business is in bad shape. 

Hiring plans remain quite weak in Alberta with only 9 per cent of business owners planning to hire full-time staff in the next three months, while 32 per cent foresee cuts.

“While it appears small business owners are feeling more confident about where they’ll be in a year, the unique nature of this economic shock is complicating the way we look at traditional indicators,” said Ted Mallett, CFIB’s chief economist. 

“It’s likely that many business owners have much lower expectations of what good performance means 12 months out. Shorter-term outlooks are still very weak. Additionally, we might be seeing some survivor bias at play— a notable number of weaker businesses polled in the spring are no longer responding to the survey, suggesting many may have failed in June and July.”

A handful of local small businesses took part in the The Big Spend event on July 25 in an attempt to promote spending at locally-owned businesses.

The Big Spend website stated that small business provide 70 per cent of all private sector jobs in Canada. The group cited research in Canada and the United States that show money spent with local business generates almost five times more revenue than corporate competitors.

“Local businesses across Canada have suffered a significant setback in the past few months, and we want to come to their aid and support them in their recovery in the same way that they have supported our communities time and time again,” reads the site.