Entrepreneurs in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows are entering a vulnerable time, according to local business leaders.
Ineke Boekhorst of the Downtown Maple Ridge Business Improvement Association said some businesses are teetering at the edge of closing, and with the busy Christmas season now past, there will be hard decisions to make.
“There’s several who are really on that edge, and some haven’t returned from the Christmas break,” said Boekhorst, the DMRBIA executive director.
Some, like Latin Flavours Fitness are working hard on making it work online, while others have already closed their doors, like Little Cricket Gift Gallery. Gold Rush Jewellers is closing, but that is a planned retirement this spring.
Boekhorst said it could be a challenge to find businesses to take over empty stores in the downtown core during a pandemic.
She knows of “quite a few” owners considering whether or not to close their doors. They were waiting for the Christmas shopping period, and Boxing Day rush, which can amount to 40 per cent of sales for some businesses, to assess their financial futures.
Boekhorst said businesses involved in renovations or hardware have done well, as have home entertainment retailers.
Other businesses, such as restaurants, have had their revenues slashed. Many will need government programs to stay afloat.
The provincial government lowered the loss requirement to get a small business relief grant last month. Operators must show a 30 per cent loss of income at the time they apply, rather than 50 per cent. They could qualify for grants up to $30,000.
The federal government offers wage subsidies, and has adjusted its rent relief program so more businesses can qualify.
Boekhorst noted the city has a new e-commerce support program to help businesses go digital.
The ShopHERE program was announced last month, and will offer 25 businesses a digital storefront, free of charge.
“Some were quick to pivot to online businesses, and that was smart,” she said. “For those who would like to get online, there’s a new opportunity.”
Flori Chaykowski, executive director of the Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows Chamber of Commerce, said there is a lot of information business owners can access on its web page under the business resources tab, and the COVID-19 Resource Page.
“And we’re here, if they have questions.”
She said the shop local messaging seems to have had a good effect for her member retailers. She is also hopeful that the $1,000 economic stimulus cheques coming from the province will inject some money in the local economy.
“Every little bit helps.”
However, she acknowledges there are business, such as restaurants and pubs, that are being restrained by the COVID-19 orders.
“We’re trying to keep it positive, and hope.”