Business renewals see small dip

·2 min read

St. Albert saw a marginal dip in businesses applying for licences this year, falling from 2,681 in 2020 to 2,602 in 2021.

Business licence applications were due at the end of January.

"(It) is obviously disappointing to hear because those are people's businesses, and those are livelihoods," said Michael Erickson, acting director of economic development at the City of St. Albert.

Overall, the small drop in business licences is still generally a sign that the city is doing well while facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

"I think that's generally a pretty sort of healthy sign for our local economy that we haven't seen huge drops in the number of licensed businesses," Erickson said.

But the business licences don't tell the whole story, Erickson noted – with a small fee for a licence, around $141, and an easier online way to get a licence this year, businesses may be getting their licence but still struggling in the new economy.

Some sectors have fared worse than others, Erickson added, with retail and restaurants getting hit the hardest

"There have been a lot of stores (that) have been forced to close, which has been extremely challenging," Erickson said.

"Restaurants as well. Those restaurants that ... have been able to sort of pivot and really focus on pickup and delivery have been able to manage and get by."

On the other hand, some professional services have been quite busy during the pandemic, like the financial and accounting sector, which have been busy trying to help businesses navigate the changes brought on by regulations.

St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce chair Curtis Crouse said businesses in the community have been resilient and innovative, qualities that helped many survive.

"It probably shows resilience, which comes from strong businesses that that are able to adapt and that have done the right things leading up to this," Crouse said.

St. Albertans have been very supportive of the local business community, he added, noting he has been impressed with the strength of Shop Local movements.

"I couldn't be more grateful to the community, the other businesses and the citizens of St. Albert. Everyone seems to understand that is tough and people are really doing their best to ... shop local and to try to support the best they can," Crouse said.

This past year has still been hard for businesses, Crouse said, with businesses facing constant uncertainty and unpredictability.

"They're just really difficult times."

Crouse said the new metric-based business re-opening schedule the province released on Friday is helpful because businesses now have some idea of when they will be able to open. Visit stalberttoday.ca for details of that schedule.

Jennifer Henderson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, St. Albert Gazette