MEDIA RELEASE: More than 40% of Manitoba businesses say it will take at least one year to recover from COVID-19; 16% fear never reaching pre-pandemic operational levels
According to a “Pandemic Revival” survey jointly conducted between May 20 to June 2, 2020 by Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce, and Leger Marketing, 60% of their member businesses saw a decline in operations during the pandemic as compared to last year. Almost one-third of consumer/retail/services industry respondents reported a 70% decrease in operational activity.
“What we confirmed in this survey — a follow-up to our March survey that measured the initial impact of COVID-19 on Manitoba business — is that retail, restaurants, tourism, hospitality, recreation, and services have been hit hard, and confidence about the future is shaken,” says Chuck Davidson, President & CEO, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce. “What is of concern is that at least 40% of business owners feel it will take at least a year for business revenues to return to pre-pandemic levels.”
A few other findings from the survey include:
- 85% of medium to large-sized businesses remained open during the pandemic as compared to just 62% of small businesses (1 to 10 employees).
- “Short-term liquidity” and “debt repayment” are the top two major concerns reported among consumer/retail/services and restaurant/tourism/hospitality/recreation industry members. “Border and travel restrictions” rounded out the top three.
- When asked about operational changes in response to the pandemic, more than half (55%) of respondents said they had already implemented or were likely to implement “more work from home arrangements”; 38% reported “technology upgrades”; and 34% reported “expanding online sales and other low contact customer interactions.”
- In MCCs March 2020 survey, 3 in 10 leaders felt their business wouldn’t make it out of the pandemic alive. In this survey, we asked respondents directly if they were considering invoking the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), and only 1% said they were.
- Some good news also came out of the survey: Industries like agriculture, manufacturing, transportation, and construction enjoyed considerable growth during the pandemic, some reporting growth upwards of 50% over the same period last year.
“While we are happy to be moving to Phase 3 of Manitoba’s reopening, for far too many businesses, the economic scars won’t heal anytime soon,” says Loren Remillard, President & CEO, The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. “The survey results show the overall situation is progressing from critical to stable, but businesses continue to be vulnerable and are facing a second wave of economic hardship when deferred tax bills come due and repayment of debt incurred begins in the fall. More help is critically needed in the months ahead if our local business community is going to return to full health, especially those in the retail, tourism, cultural, and food service sectors.”
The survey revealed that there are significant gaps between knowing about COVID-19 relief and support programs for business, and applying for them.
When asked about their awareness of COVID-19 support plans delivered by federal and provincial governments, 98% of respondents said they were aware of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (40% had applied); 92% were aware of the Canada Emergency Business Account (40% had applied). On the provincial side, 72% of respondents were aware of the Manitoba Gap Protection Plan (11% had applied); and although 89% of respondents knew about the Summer Student Recovery Program, just 9% had applied.
“These results could mean that meeting some of the eligibility requirements are difficult, that businesses are concerned about taking on more debt, or that the funding streams are simply not meeting the right needs,” says Davidson. “We hear from our members that small business operators are incurring hard costs related to personal protective equipment and staffing to control social distancing, so both our Chambers are advocating for the provincial government to implement a start-up grant to defray these costs.”
The survey concluded with the opportunity for business leaders to share their perspective on what the Manitoba government should focus on to support and grow the provincial economy. The top recommendations were:
- “Invest in healthcare infrastructure to help prepare the system for a possible second surge of COVID-19” – 40%
- “Support local tourism with increased marketing across Canada” – 33%
- “Reduce regulations” – 31%
Andrew Enns, Executive Vice-President with Leger noted: “I somewhat expected the support for tourism and reducing red tape, but the investment in healthcare was interesting. I suspect that is a message to government that businesses cannot survive a second mass shutdown should infections increase significantly later in the year. The healthcare system has to get us through.”
About the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce
The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, established in 1931, is the umbrella organization for Manitoba’s chamber movement. With a membership comprised of local Chambers of Commerce as well as direct corporate members, the MCC is Manitoba’s largest business lobby, representing almost 10,000 businesses and community leaders. Visit us online at jointhechamber.ca #VoiceofBusiness #PoweroftheNetwork
About The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce:
The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce uses its position as a community leader, a member business supporter and a public policy influencer to build a city where industry prosperity and community wellness grow.
Leger 360 is the largest Canadian-owned market research and analytics company, with more than 600 employees in Canada and the United States. Visit us online at leger360.com.
For more information:
Manitoba Chambers of Commerce
Chuck Davidson, President & CEO
Ph: 204-948-0107 or M: 204-792-1679
Andrew Enns, Executive Vice-President – Winnipeg
Ph: 204-989-8986 or M: 204-792-2466