A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Indebted Canadian businesses more ‘fragile’ than during 1st wave, BDC economist warns

The study said 87 per cent of entrepreneurs are confident they will make it through the crisis

A new study says many Canadian entrepreneurs are focused on shoring up their balance sheets after recording a drastic drop in revenues and mounting debt during the first wave of COVID-19.

The Business Development Bank of Canada survey says the top priority of business owners is getting their financial houses in order, including reducing operating costs and improving cash flow.

Investing in technology was also a priority for entrepreneurs, according to the study which also listed a focus on remote work, online sales and reviving growth as other key areas.

The study found that small- and medium-sized businesses were hit hard by the crisis, with 76 per cent reporting a decline in revenues and profits during the pandemic.

Nearly half ending up laying off staff, while about 39 per cent of entrepreneurs took on more debt to survive, the BDC said.

Still, the BDC study said 87 per cent of entrepreneurs are confident they will make it through the crisis.

Pierre Cleroux, BDC’s vice-president of research and chief economist, says his “biggest worry” is the high debt levels of many businesses.

“If there’s a second wave and we have to go into lockdowns, the good news is businesses are more prepared,” he said in an interview. “They’ve worked hard to be more efficient, reduce costs and be more present online.

“The bad news is they are more in debt than they were six months ago, so they are more fragile.”

Cleroux said the transition to remote working and the focus on technology and online sales has been a significant shift.

“I never saw such a momentum in terms of investing in technology,” Cleroux said. “This is going to help them in the long run.”

More than half of entrepreneurs surveyed said remote working helped their business innovate and improved employee productivity.

“For many years, businesses were not really open to remote work because they didn’t think it would be beneficial,” Cleroux said.

“The pandemic has really changed that perception.”

Only one in five entrepreneurs said teleworking hurt innovation or productivity.

The BDC study also found that the pandemic has changed the spending habits of Canadians.

The research said more than 83 per cent of Canadian shoppers were willing to pay more for local products, while 56 per cent made more online purchases during the pandemic.

The study said the importance of e-commerce was highlighted by business owners and that companies that were already selling online reported being less affected by the lockdown.

The BDC said the study is based on two surveys, with 1,000 Canadian small- and medium-sized enterprise leaders and 2,000 consumers polled in May and June.

READ MORE: Focus on innovation, not alcohol, key to survival for restaurants, experts say

The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronaviruseconomy

Just Posted

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., on Wednesday, July 15, 2015. Mounties say they are searching for an armed and dangerous man near a provincial park in northern Alberta who is believed to have shot and killed a service dog during a police chase. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
RCMP search for armed man in northern Alberta after police dog shot and killed

Cpl. Deanna Fontaine says a police service dog named Jago was shot during the pursuit

Alberta now has 2,336 active cases of COVID-19, with 237 people in hospital, including 58 in intensive care. (Black Press file photo)
Red Deer down to 73 active cases of COVID-19, lowest since early November

The Central zone has 253 active cases of the virus

Kobe Zembal (left) and Kale Rochette pose with some of the raised flower beds they have built. The flowerbeds are made from recycled plastic repurposed into plastic lumber. (Photo submitted)
Teens run successful plastic lumber products business in Bashaw

Pair of teenagers are learning first-hand about entrepreneurial spirit

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases attributed to the highly contagious Delta variant grew in Canada this week. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s public health agency reports spike in confirmed cases of Delta variant

More than 2,000 cases of the variant confirmed across all 10 provinces and in one territory

The federal government says it wants to ban most flavoured vaping products in a bid to reduce their appeal to youth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Craig Mitchelldyer
Health Canada proposes ban on most vaping flavours it says appeal to youth

If implemented, the regulations would restrict all e-cigarette flavours except tobacco, mint and menthol

The Montreal Police logo is seen in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. Some Quebec politicians are calling for an investigation after a video was released that appears to show a Montreal police officer with his leg on a young Black man’s neck during an arrest. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Probe called for after video appearing to show Montreal officer’s knee on Black youth’s neck

Politicians call for investigation after clip evokes memories of George Floyd incident

Thousands of protesters make their way through the downtown core during a Black Lives Matter protest in Ottawa, Friday June 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
MPs’ study of systemic racism in policing concludes RCMP needs new model

Chair of the House public safety committee says it’s time for a reckoning on ‘quasi-military’ structure

A case filled with packages of boneless chicken breasts is shown in a grocery store Sunday, May 10, 2020, in southeast Denver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-David Zalubowski
One million chickens euthanized during labour dispute at Quebec slaughterhouse

Premier says waste amounts to 13 per cent of the province’s chicken production thrown in the garbage

A section of the eastern slopes of the Canadian Rockies is seen west of Cochrane, Alta., Thursday, June 17, 2021. A joint federal-provincial review has denied an application for an open-pit coal mine in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, saying its impacts on the environment and Indigenous rights aren’t worth the economic benefits it would bring. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Panel says Grassy Mountain coal mine in Alberta Rockies not in public interest

Public hearings on the project in southern Alberta’s Crowsnest Pass region were held last fall

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on Friday, February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
U.S. border restrictions to remain in place until at least July 21

Safety minister says Canada, U.S. extending restrictions on non-essential international travel

Most Read