'Waiting to see what happens next': Edmonton businesses face challenges with COVID-19

Many Edmonton businesses are concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on their bottom line, with many companies making changes to their services. 

'I think there’s a lot more questions than answers at this point'

Alexei Boldireff (left), executive chef of Baiju and Royale Burger and Matthew Stepanic, co-Owner of Glass Bookshop, both say their business is feeling the effects of coronavirus. (Madeleine Cummings/CBC)

Edmonton businesses are concerned about the effects of COVID-19 on their bottom line, with many companies making changes to their services. 

Jeff Nachtigall, co-owner of Edmonton bakery Sugared and Spiced, is one of those business owners. 

"Bakeries don't have very high-profit margins so a couple of days of decimated traffic could be really painful," he said.

"We've felt a little bit of a slowdown in sales, not a lot. But we're more concerned about what will happen in the coming days."

As COVID-19 information quickly evolves and changes, local businesses are wondering what the result will be on their bottom line. 
Jeff Nachtigall co-owns Sugared & Spiced bakery, which has had a drop in clients within the last week. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

Mekita Aznar, co-owner of Fast Trax Run and Ski Shop, says revenue has dropped by more than 50 per cent. 

"We have all of the inventory coming in and if there's no sales, the invoices are still going to come in," she told CBC's RadioActive on Friday.

"It's a little scary."

One of the biggest challenges to the bottom lines of small businesses is adapting to the unknown, said Michael Holden, vice president of policy and chief economist at the Business Council of Alberta.

"I think there's a lot more questions than answers at this point," Holden said. 

"I think for a lot of businesses, it's a matter of waiting to see what happens next, making sure you have preventative measures you need to have in place to make sure your workforce is safe and so your business can keep running."

Making necessary changes

Many businesses are trying to be proactive when dealing with the public.

The YMCA of northern Alberta, which serves thousands in the province, has made several changes to their programs and services within the last week.

In Edmonton, all indoor playgrounds, youth centres and hot tubs are closed as of Friday afternoon, said Michelle Hynes-Dawson, vice president of marketing communications with YMCA of northern Alberta.

Some drop-in classes have been modified to accommodate fewer people as of Friday afternoon, she said.

I think there's a lot more questions than answers at this point.- Michael Holden, chief economist with Business Council of Alberta

"We're trying to keep our doors open the best we can to help people to stay healthy but at the same time trying to adhere to those best practices," she said Friday afternoon.

As the largest childcare provider in Western Canada, the YMCA has made changes to its childcare programs, including how meals are served, with educators now serving children individually instead of family-style meals, Hynes-Dawson said.

'Triple whammy' business impact

Unlike other businesses in Canada, Holden and Premier Jason Kenney say Alberta businesses are being hit with what Kenney previously called a "triple whammy."

The uncertainty around resource development, COVID-19 and the "oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia" are affecting sales for many businesses in the province, Holden said.

"That makes it especially challenging in Alberta," he said.

"All Canadians are going to be harmed by this or the economy will slow everywhere. It's going to be steepest and first seen in Alberta because of the oil price component of it."

How can people help?

Nachtigall said even if people opt for social distancing, there are ways to support local businesses.

He suggests people purchase gift cards to use at a later date. 

Alexei Boldireff, executive Chef of Baiju and Royale Burger, said one of the best things people can do is be informed and take the right precautions.

"The biggest thing people can do is take it seriously, let's get it contained and we can go back to business as usual."


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