Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. (rickcollinsphotography.com)

Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association. (rickcollinsphotography.com)

COLUMN: Every little bit counts as businesses face ‘devastating’ time

Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association

Jeff Bray

Executive Director, Downtown Victoria Business Association

We are in this together.

As the old curse states, “May you live in interesting times.” Well, we are indeed doing so now. For many of us, the new normal includes working from home while trying to get the kids to focus on schoolwork at the kitchen table, and running out of things to watch on Netflix.

For our small business owners in Victoria, this is a devastating time.

Rent was due last week, and rent will be due again in May. However, countless businesses are closed or barely operating. Sales have evaporated, revenues dropped to almost zero. The financial pressure is almost unbearable. Yet, for many of our small retail outlets, restaurants and lounges, the worst part was having to lay off staff. For them, staff are like family. It is distressing to see these severe impacts.

We are in this together, as a community, and we can all help local businesses. Search online for your favourite store, boutique, gym, studio, or salon. If they sell gift cards, consider purchasing one to use once the world has returned to normal. If they have an online store with delivery or pick-up options, make a purchase. If they are offering online classes, give them a try. That revenue will be critical to those businesses’ ability to re-hire all staff at the onset of recovery.

If you have the means, consider ordering a meal for delivery or take out, even once or twice a week. Keeping even minimal cash flow and kitchen staff employed in our restaurant sector will ensure they can be around when recovery begins. Every little bit counts, I cannot stress this enough.

Below are some websites to help you discover what is open, who is doing online or gift cards, and who is offering delivery or take-out: supportlocalyyj.com and islandist.ca/2020/03/20/victorias-take-out-options-mapped.

If you simply cannot afford to spend right now, consider reaching out to your favourite businesses with a warm note. With so much uncertainty, anxiety is palpable across the business community. Kindness can go a long way.

For our local economy, it is vital that we support our small and medium businesses. Every day, businesses are struggling to survive. For their laid-off employees, they can only hope there will be a job to which they can return. A significant portion of lost jobs belong to lower-wage workers, students, and recent immigrants. Governments have responded in the short-term, but to avoid long-term negative impacts for them we need to keep their employers afloat.

Recovery will come. We are fortunate that our city has naval base, two hospitals, two universities, a strong tech sector, and numerous provincial government offices, all keeping individuals employed. Those working from home will have pent up demand for everything from haircuts to handbags, craft jewelry to craft beers and everything in between. So, let’s support our small businesses now, so they can continue serving our community into the future.

Finally, I want to acknowledge on behalf of downtown Victoria, our appreciation for all the essential workers who do not have the option to stay safely at home. Thank you.

Jeff Bray is the executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

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