Downtown Smithers. (File photo)

Downtown Smithers. (File photo)

Downtown businesses losing sales amid pandemic

Merchants association survey indicates 40 per cent of respondents down by 20 per cent or more

A recently published report by the Smithers Downtown Merchants Association indicates 40 per cent of businesses surveyed had 20 per cent or more fewer sales than previous years.

The survey elicited 25 responses from downtown businesses with 32 per cent saying they did about the same as before COVID-19 and 28 per cent saying they actually saw an increase of 20 per cent or more.

“There is definitely a sector of the retailers that are doing better than the previous year, which is good in light of the circumstances,” said Grant Harris, who heads up the association.

More than 90 per cent of respondents said they were open less hours in 2020, while eight per cent were open more hours.

The results also indicated nearly one-third of the businesses were optimistic about 2021 saying they expected to do more than 20 per cent better this year.

READ MORE: Recovery grant helps local businesses find new directions

“Two-thirds of them feel like they’re going to do the same as or better than last year,” he said. “I think that speaks to the optimism of the entrepreneurs in our commmunity. And we have a pretty vibrant downtown when you compare it to other outlying shopping opportunities.”

Nearly half expected to do about the same as 2020 while 21 per cent felt like they would do 20 or more per cent worse this year.

They survey also asked whether busineses pivoted their model to include more ways of shopping, such as online options or curbside pickup.

Of the respondents, 72 per cent said they did not do anything new.

Harris said he found that kind of surprising under the circumstances.

“Fewer merchants changed their way of selling than I would have expected,” he said. “Of course, that might indicated that they were already selling well online, or it may indicate they felt like they could work with their normal sales process under the restrictions.”

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