Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
It started with one appointment cancellation after another for Carla Deroy. Even as pandemic recovery progressed, postponements continued to roll in for her family-owned business in St. James.
That was in April, says Deroy, who opened her cosmetic and beauty education storefront in Winnipeg 10 years ago as a single mother with her three daughters.
"I’m not sure things are ever going back to normal," she told the Free Press.
Data released Wednesday from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business suggests just over one-third of Manitoba’s small businesses are back to making normal sales.
Despite provinces moving from one phase of recovery to another, businesses like Deroy’s Beauty Box by Sheriff have struggled to find their footing — facing deep cuts amid COVID-19 and worries that consumer spending will continue to be muted.
Figures collected over the Terry Fox weekend show while 72 per cent of small businesses in the province are now fully open, over half of them are not fully staffed.
"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," says Dan Kelly, CFIB’s president.
"Behind the counter, the story is often very different."
Recovery for Manitoba’s small businesses during the pandemic has been "severely incremental," says Jonathan Alward, CFIB’s director in the Prairies.
Last week, CFIB reported about one in ten small businesses in the province — roughly 4,279 — remain at the risk of going under, on top of ones that have already shuttered.
Numbers on Wednesday showed staff employment levels are up only 5 per cent since June, with re-openings up by 10 per cent and sale levels up 13 per cent.
Those figures, while higher than the national average and compared to other provinces, are "still gutting" when taking Manitoba’s lower cases and overall COVID-19 recovery into account, says Alward.
Nationally, about three out of five business owners are worried that consumer spending will remain low, even after the pandemic.
"No matter what we factor in, sales are already down dramatically since last year," he said. "My concern now is about how consumer confidence might take further hits if we get any newer cases."
Should things remain the same, Beauty Box by Sheriff will be forced to offload their retail space — expanding further online and focusing only on the few cosmetic classes people are interested in taking, says Deroy.
"We subcontract our girls out on appointments once they’ve been trained with us," she said. "So many of them have been out of work with nothing to do."
From weddings to birthday parties, "everything’s been cancelled," said Deroy. But as a family business, she says "failure just isn’t an option."
"We’ve put everything in our heart, our soul, our life’s earnings into this. No matter what, we’ll ride it out till the end."
Temur Durrani reports on the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for this Free Press reporting position comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.
The Winnipeg Free Press invites you to share your opinion on this story in a letter to the editor. A selection of letters to the editor are published daily.
Letters must include the writer’s full name, address, and a daytime phone number. Letters are edited for length and clarity.