Most Surrey businesses are reporting significant hardship eight months into crippling economic restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Surrey Board of Trade survey.
However, businesses have remained “resilient” overall, said board CEO Anita Huberman, granted only 5% have reported closing shop.
In Surrey, about one in four businesses reports being entirely unscathed by the pandemic, the survey suggests. The other businesses are either partially re-opened or have since re-opened after the first restrictions were imposed in mid March.
Impacts to business are wide-ranging, said Huberman: 48% have disrupted supply chains; 46% are experiencing staff absences; 44% say caution is keeping customers away; and 41% have reduced demand for their products or services.
These impacts have hurt bottom lines as a majority of the businesses (56%) have experienced a decline in revenue of 20% or more since last year. Meanwhile, just 11% of survey respondents said revenues have gone up.
The survey also shows how six in 10 businesses have shifted to e-commerce and digital work in some form. One in six businesses have also laid the majority of their staff off or shifted to non-regular/non-full-time work. Just 44% of respondents are currently at pre-pandemic staffing levels, according to the survey.
Key concerns of business owners are employee safety and maintaining social distancing.
The survey heard most from the manufacturing (15%) and construction sectors (12%), followed by the likes of entertainment, real estate, education and accommodation and food — representing 5% to 8% of the 94 full respondents. The board sent out surveys to 2,000 member businesses, of which 723 viewed the survey online but just 166 responded at least partially.
As for managing the pandemic business response, 35% of businesses have used or are using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, and a further 5% plan to use it. The balance either did not need it (31%) or did not qualify (29%).
From governments, businesses want to see general tax credits/cuts and/or business improvement grants, in order to rebound, the survey response suggests.
“There are challenges to survive this pandemic. If provincial health orders shut down segments of industries without government support, then there will be continued negative impacts to not only Surrey’s economy but also B.C.’s economy,” said Huberman.
In Surrey, health orders and business interests have clashed, particularly as the Fraser Health region experiences a significant uptick in COVID-19 cases that is prompting a regional ban on gatherings.