'It's a scary time to be in retail,': Business association calls on city to improve commercial climate

The South Granville Business Improvement Association says the City of Vancouver could do more to protect retailers as taxation, gentrification and changing consumer habits are making it a challenge for some small businesses to stay afloat.

Taxation, gentrification and changing consumer habits forcing Vancouver shops to shut doors

The shuttering of small businesses in Vancouver is cause for concern and action according to the South Granville Business Improvement Association. (CBC News)

It's a difficult time to be a small business owner in Vancouver and the city could do more to protect shops before many are forced to shut their doors, according to the executive director of one local business association. 

Sharon Townsend from the South Granville Business Improvement Association spoke with The Early Edition guest host Michelle Eliot about the challenges retailers face and what she feels can be done to prevent the commercial landscape of the city from being forever changed.

'Outrageous inequality'

"We have the retail sector, the commercial sector, in this city paying half the bills to operate the city, which is an outrageous inequality that refuses to be addressed," said Townsend.

Townsend said high property taxes and pressure to redevelop land to prioritize residential units hamper small business owners who cannot adapt to higher rents.

"You either take home less money, don't hire that extra staff person, or you advertise less which ends up making your life more difficult," said Townsend. "It's a scary time to be in retail."

"You adapt, you adapt, you adapt and sometimes you run out of options and think, 'This isn't worth it anymore,' and you pack up your bags."

Recent business closures in Vancouver include The Foundation restaurant, Nick's Spaghetti House, 3 Vets and The European Warehouse.

"We need the city to realize that there is a limit to what the retail small business sector can bear in terms of their share of property tax," said Townsend.

Consumer changes

Townsend also pointed the finger at consumers who, by choosing to shop online, are taking business from brick-and-mortar stores.

"In some cases we bring it on ourselves ... then we are annoyed when the opportunity to shop local is gone," said Townsend.

Pop-up shops have become an affordable alternative to permanent stores, but Townsend argues they do not benefit neighbourhoods the same way that traditional brick-and-mortar shops can.

Townsend believes temporary shops suggest that someone isn't taking chances and investing in community and place.

"We are losing our choice. We are losing our lifestyle where we can shop where we live."

To hear the complete audio click on the link below:

With files from The Early Edition.