As the Canadian Federation of Independent Business surveys members during the pandemic, it's finding most small businesses are struggling, and some are doing well, says Louis Philippe Gauthier, director of provincial affairs for the organization.
Any business that offers anything to do with construction and home renovations is seeing its best numbers as many people advantage of time and extra funds to do home projects, Gauthier said.
"On the other end of the spectrum, if you look at hospitality, restaurants, arts and entertainment, those are the sectors whether either the health restrictions and the changes in consumer spending and the border restrictions are still having a very real effect on those businesses."
Gauthier said the federation's surveys, now done every two weeks instead of every week, ask businesses if they are fully open and about revenue levels, debt realities and other matters. The latest survey was sent out Friday to 3,500 small independent businesses.
The federation says 70 per cent of small businesses in New Brunswick have reopened, although not all at full staffing levels.
"Seventy per cent are reporting that revenues are below last year."
Independent businesses were asked if the programs being offered by the federal and provincial governments were helping. The feedback helped the organization as it sought changes.
Rent assistance program ends
The latest concern is the rent assistance program of the federal government, which he said is poorly designed, with only one-third of the total budget available to businesses.
"The program ends today and tomorrow is September first and rent is due for a lot of businesses, so we're still pushing on substantive changes to that program at this time."
The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program offers unsecured, forgivable loans to eligible commercial property owners to cover a minimum of 50 per cent of their tenants' rent. In exchange, a landlord had to reduce the rent charged to small business tenant by at least 75 per cent.
In general, Gauthier said, optimism is growing among businesses that things will improve, but when they're asked how long it will take to get back to profitability, 20 per cent of members say six months to a year.
"Over 30 per cent are saying more than a year. Profitability for a lot of businesses is further down the field."
Gauthier said 70 per cent of businesses are below what they made last year.
What is most concerning is that about 15 per cent of the 3.500 businesses surveyed are considering closing or declaring bankruptcy because of what has happened during the pandemic.
"The impacts are very real for a segment of small businesses. We're not out of the woods."