'It's tough': Small businesses finding new ways to survive during pandemic
VANCOUVER -- It's become the new normal for business owner Anita Dunn: driving to customers' homes and dropping off online clothing orders outside their doors, then stepping back and messaging them to let them know to come out and pick up their purchase.
“I keep thinking about when they’re going to stop non-essential services from working. So, I’m working as hard as I can, and trying to get as many sales as I can now, so that I can pay rent on April first and that I can hire my employees back when we are allowed to work again,” Dunn told CTV News Vancouver. “I’m not going to stop unless somebody tells me I have to stop, but I know it will come.”
Dunn’s brick and mortar clothing store Mila and Paige in New Westminster closed to the public last week, and she is now focusing on online sales, modelling some of the items in stock for customers on Instagram video so they can shop virtually.
“There has been so much support from the community,” Dunn said. “I just want to say thank you.”
Winemaker at Pacific Breeze Winery Dylan Hamilton said there has definitely been a decline in sales, and a steep drop-off in the deliveries they used to provide to liquor stores and restaurants, especially considering some of the latter have had to close.
“It’s tough, it’s uncertain,” Hamilton said. The winery is also adapting, and is now starting to offer free deliveries of online orders.
“We’ll be checking their ID through a window, something like that, to verify age, leaving the wine and kind of getting out of there,” he said, and added the response from customers has been really supportive.
“The small business is going to be, I think, hit the hardest here,” Hamilton said.
Founder of the IMPACT Parkinson’s Society Robyn Murrell said the organization's local centre, which features a boxing gym to help people living with the disease, had to close last week. The non-profit also had to cancel some major upcoming fundraisers.
“We’re trying to make ends meet right now,” Murrell said. The society is now selling house-made hand sanitizer to help raise funds.
“I’ve been making all my own cleaning products for the gym for years,” Murrell said, and added her sanitizer formulation follows the World Health Organization recommendations. “I’m getting phone calls constantly. I don’t know how much longer I can keep this up. Supplies are dwindling.”
Murrell said she is worried about her business, but she’s more worried about her clients.
“We know - it’s proven fact - that medication and forced intense exercise are the only two things that help keep their symptoms at bay,” Murrell said. “This is a really, really tough time for them, not having a place to go to.”
Canadian Federation of Independent Business Executive Vice President Laura Jones said her organization is hearing about small businesses getting “creative” to try to keep going, including offering curb-side pick up or online classes.
“For many businesses, unfortunately, there’s really nothing customers can do right now, but for those businesses, we’re saying make sure you come back early and often when they’re open again because this really is turning into an economic emergency for small businesses,” Jones said.
She added even for those who have found other ways to keep operating, it is not making up for the drop in sales.
“I think Amazon is going to be fine through this, it’s your local businesses you’ve got to worry about,” Jones said.