Businesses in the Bulkley Valley are trying to adapt to the current state of unknown amidst the public health emergency.
“I can safely say that many businesses are not looking to the future and are taking things day-by-day,” said Sheena Miller, manager of the Smithers and District Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a once in a lifetime fluid situation that I don’t think we can yet quantify or measure the economic, and emotional gravity.”
The Chamber is hearing from many local businesses and companies that have to contend with closing their business, accommodating worried, anxious patrons and employees, staff without daycare and business operation changes such as supply chain disruptions.
“Businesses are being forced to re-write or create new attendance or sick leave policies and make contingency plans to ensure minimal impacts to their supply chain,” she added.
“There’s also a level of fear with consumer uncertainty about shopping. Consumers are fearful there is not enough toilet paper or sanitizer to go around, despite our provincial health officer Bonnie Henry’s assurance that these items will remain available.
“Consumers are delaying the purchase of large ticket items and are not committing to future non-essential travel and holidays.”
Miller is anticipating there will be a significant impact on international, national and provincial tourism to the local visitor centre and region.
Currently, she said so far she has seen employers looking out for their employees.
“On the positive, as we navigate COVID-19 as a business community, many Bulkley Valley businesses are sending a clear message to their employees and the public that what matters now is how we care for each other. What I’ve been hearing and witnessing is the notion that no employee has to choose between work or taking care of themselves.
“It’s health versus commerce and following best practices, government mandatory restrictions, Northern Health Authority recommendations and public safety are the priority.”
Miller is also reminding people that the greatest show of support to a business and the community right now is to shop alone, practice self-distancing and avoid entering a building or public site if ill or experiencing cold or flu symptoms.
“We are taking the health and safety of essential service providers very seriously and do not want to jeopardize these services or put these businesses at risk. Several businesses have already closed due to these concerns.
“I firmly believe the cost of underreacting is far greater than the cost of overreacting. If everyone practiced these suggested practices, we could significantly help reduce the impact and burden to our health care system, businesses that are already significantly challenged to stay open and provide essential services.
“While we recognize that shoppers and patrons all face different circumstances that impede their ability to shop solo, we are just asking our community to be mindful and do the best they can.”
The Chamber is open to appointments only and will continue to serve the public through phone and email. However, the Visitor Centre is closed.