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April 20, 2020

Alberta’s small businesses prepare for deep pandemic-induced recession after years of fragility

CALGARY – George Condon’s small men’s clothing and alterations shop on Stephen Ave., the main strip in Calgary’s downtown core, has weathered both real and economic storms for seven straight years.

There was the flood that submerged downtown Calgary in 2013. Then the oil price collapse of 2014 that resulted in tens of thousands of layoffs and emptied out parts of the city’s commercial centre. A handful of his competitors — small, independent retailers — have closed given the unrelenting pressure.

“Now you sort of wonder, after this, how many more?” the owner of Gios Collections for Men said of the coronavirus pandemic that is keeping would-be shoppers off the street.

Condon, like many small and mid-sized business owners across Alberta, is trying to prepare his company for the rest of the year. He’s already had to call and cancel most of his orders for fall season clothing, which is made seven months in advance, because he can’t risk having excess inventory.

……

Last week, Statistics Canada data showed Alberta’s unemployment was already trending upwards, to 8.7 per cent in March from 7.2 per cent in February.

“As bad as those numbers are, they grossly understate the reality,” the Business Council of Alberta said in a release, which predicted April’s actual unemployment rate for April would reach 26.7 per cent given the number of people currently applying for Employment Insurance.

That number is the most bearish forecast released to date for Alberta’s unemployment rate. Most other forecasts put expected unemployment around 15 per cent, which is still a dramatic jobless number.

Image: Calgary Herald

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