P.E.I. stores see downturn in spending as it gets more expensive to live

Local businesses and customers on P.E.I. are feeling the pinch as living costs continue to rise. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)
Local businesses and customers on P.E.I. are feeling the pinch as living costs continue to rise. (David Donnelly/CBC - image credit)

As the cost of everything rises on P.E.I. — the province with the highest inflation rate in the country for the 20th straight month — consumers are spending less at local businesses, especially for those non-essential items.

Both the Summerside and Charlottetown area chambers of commerce say they are hearing from members that spending is down and it comes at a time when businesses are also dealing with rising costs.

Kaley O'Brien, executive director of the Summerside Chamber of Commerce, said the costs of essential purchases are leading people to spend less on other things.

"The spend in the community just isn't there right now, because people are worried and they're being more conservative with their money," said O'Brien.

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Bill DeBlois is the president of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce as well as the owner of Buns & Things Bakery and Deli. He said it's a challenging time for both businesses and consumers.

"People are definitely more cautious about where they're spending their money," DeBlois said.

Stressful situation for everyone

Buns & Things Bakery and Deli has been a family business for more than three decades, but DeBlois said this is the first time he's seeing such "staggering" rising costs.

"Some of our main items could be up as much as 50 or 60 per cent from a year ago."

He said this adds stress on businesses who are trying to keep costs from rising for their customers.

Shane Ross/CBC
Shane Ross/CBC

DeBlois said his business has also seen a decrease in profits. On a bakery level, bread sales are still relatively strong, but he said cake and cookie sales are down.

"That's definitely created a tough atmosphere and that's not unique to us, that's tough for any and all small businesses trying to function out there."

O'Brien said businesses that sell luxury items, higher-priced clothes or knick-knacks are especially struggling because those items are usually the first to go when people are cutting down on spending.

"We are definitely going to see a reduction in spend this Christmas season," she said.

Cutting back ahead of holidays

Laura Meader/CBC
Laura Meader/CBC

Shirley Smith of Donaldston, P.E.I., said she will be scaling back on holiday gifts this year, and will largely rely on giving out nice Christmas cards instead.

"I don't want to spend a lot of money in that I have to replace my roof on my house and I have to cut back in general," she said.

Smith said she's seen items almost double in price over the past year and feels for the businesses who might be seeing fewer customers.

Sara Fraser/CBC
Sara Fraser/CBC

For Mary Beth Campbell, owner of Luxury Market Consignment, offering a range of prices is one way to keep customers satisfied. Campbell said her consignment store has a $10 sale rack, and she's aware of how rising prices might change shopping habits.

"When people are tighter for money, we bring in pieces that aren't as expensive," she said.

Campbell said she's noticed a lot of people bringing in their items to the consignment store hoping to make some extra money.

And although Campbell said she's worried about how rising costs might mean people are buying less, she's trying not to stress too much.

"I mean it's a fear for everybody, but unfortunately everyone's going through the same thing."