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COVID-19 impact felt by 81% of Canadian small business owners: CIBC

One-in-three business owners worry about the viability of their business over the next year, poll finds


COVID-19 impact felt by 81 per cent of Canadian small business owners: CIBC Poll (CNW Group/CIBC)

TORONTO — A new CIBC poll finds most (81%) of Canadian small business owners say COVID-19 has negatively impacted their operations, and many (32%) worry about the viability of their business over the next year.

However, optimism for the longer term remains strong with most business owners (76%) confident they can rebound after the crisis. The majority (85%) agree the uncertainty of how long COVID-19 measures will last is currently the hardest aspect to manage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the Canadian economy. Many business owners (54%) say sales have dropped, and an additional 28% have had to temporarily shut down operations altogether.

Most have made significant changes to weather the crisis, including reducing operating expenses (34%), dipping into savings (29%), laying off staff (25%) and applying for more credit (15%). Close to one-in-three (29%) feel it will take a year or two to get back to pre-COVID business volumes.

“It’s clear that entrepreneurs still believe in their opportunity to grow over the longer term, but are facing significant issues right now that are leading some to question if they can sustain their business long enough to move into recovery mode,” said Laura Dottori-Attanasio, senior executive vice-president and group head, personal and business banking, CIBC, in a prepared statement.

Cash flow and business volumes are major concerns, with half of business owners (52%) citing reduced customer demand for products and services, and one-in-five (21%) concerned they may not be able to pay staff. Owners are searching for ways to improve, with 52% trying to reduce debt levels, 44% looking for more credit to support operating capital and 39% seeking cash management and advice.

A number of businesses may diversify or pivot to endure through the crisis. Many (45%) are seeking ways to use the current environment as an opportunity to meet a new need, however a large number (74%) say their business is not currently equipped to sell or service online.

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