There appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel for retailers and small businesses in Canada struggling to survive during the COVID-19 crisis. A careful, phased approach to the reopening of the economy has begun in several provinces after many businesses were effectively shut down in mid-March to prevent the spread of the potentially deadly virus. Every province is taking a different approach to this recovery, particularly when it comes to the dates of when things will start returning to a normal state of affairs – whatever that will look like in the future.

Dan Kelly, President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, said the organization welcomes the careful, phased approach to the reopening of the economy which began on May 4 in several provinces. CFIB data indicates 80% of small firms are closed (fully or partially) with only 20% fully open and over 40% report that they may permanently close if the current restrictions remain in place until the end of May. “Small firms feel they can play a positive role in continuing to flatten the curve. It doesn’t make sense that we force everyone to line up at Costco and Walmart to buy a t-shirt or frying pan just because they also sell groceries,” said Kelly. “Small, independent businesses are more naturally able to adjust to the need for ongoing physical distancing given they serve far fewer customers than the big box stores.”

“But it will be a messy recovery. My advice for governments, business owners, employees, and customers: let’s be patient, careful and respect each other’s perspectives. We are in new territory—not everything will be clear or in place as it should. And we need to listen to the advice of medical officers.”

As Canadian provinces prepare to relax their COVID-19 lockdown restrictions it could be well into this summer before consumers will feel completely comfortable venturing out again for non-essential shopping and restaurant dining, said Michael Kehoe, Lead Ambassador in Canada for the New-York based International Council of Shopping Centers.“The goal of reopening the retail sector over the mid to long-term will focus on enticing customers back into the fold and to re-establish retail and restaurant teams in a safe manner,” said Kehoe.

While re-opening will be helpful to some, the vast majority of small businesses will still struggle for a long time coming out of this, said Jon Shell, co-founder of the grassroots coalition Save Small Business, supported by about 40,000 small businesses across Canada. “We are still in the ‘save from bankruptcy and evictions’ phase of the crisis, and if we want there to be businesses around to help the economy recover, that’s where our attention needs to be right now. Politicians can’t just ‘pivot’ to recovery, they have to keep their focus on saving businesses while planning the slow reopening of the economy,” he said.

Rapid increases in testing and contact tracing are needed to hasten the re-opening of the economy, according to a C.D. Howe Institute working group. On May 4, Salesforce, the global leader in CRM, announced Work.com – new technology solutions and resources to help business and community leaders around the world reopen safely, re-skill employees and respond efficiently on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Every company and community in the world is focusing on how to safely reopen and get to a new normal,” said Bret Taylor, President and COO, Salesforce. “With Work.com, we’re bringing together powerful new technology, our partners and network of experts to help organizations reopen and recover from this crisis while putting employee and visitor health and safety first.”

5 Things to Consider As Economies Begin to Re-open

As provinces introduce their plans, here are some of the key considerations and what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.

  1. There will be outbreaks – the key will be for provinces to be prepared to rapidly respond and continue contact tracing.
  2. Some workers can’t be protected – there is no perfect way to protect against exposure and certain industries will face higher risk. 
  3. Knowledge is changing – Knowledge about the virus is changing frequently, which is leading to different practices and policies to protect workers.
  4. Legal and ethical responsibility – Business owners and corporations will have to plan the best way to protect workers and still be able to bring back workers, while remaining financially viable. 
  5. Enforcement is key – while it isn’t easy to ensure everyone is following physical distancing and other safety measures, it’s critical to keeping the virus from spreading.

COVID-19 articles dominate the news, it can be overwhelming and difficult to know exactly which businesses are allowed to open and what restrictions need to be followed. Guides have been created by CTV News and the Globe and Mail to help employers and individuals stay up to date with the rules that apply to their province. 

Source: CTV News
Source: CBC
Source: Retail Insider
Source: Globe and Mail