Richmond businesses struggle to pay the rent

The most pressing issue the Richmond Chamber of Commerce is hearing about from its members during the pandemic is being able to pay the rent.

A recent survey of chamber members showed 70 per cent of respondents didn’t take advantage of the federal rent subsidy program – those renting commercial space are dependent on their landlords to apply for the subsidy.

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“That’s the number one problem we’re hearing from our members – they’re months behind on their rent and their landlords are not taking part in this program,” Pitcairn said.

The BC Chamber of Commerce released the results of the province-wide survey last week, and Richmond chamber president was explaining the local results to the Richmond Community COVID-19 Task Force last Tuesday.

Seventy-nine per cent of businesses in Richmond and Delta that responded to the chamber survey said they had seen a decrease in sales volumes due to the COVID-19 pandemic – only two per cent said there had been no impact.

Furthermore, 47 per cent said there were increased operating costs to doing business and 51 per cent reported laying off workers.

There were 57 businesses from Richmond and Delta that responded to the survey.

Matt Pitcairn, CEO of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, said businesses are watching the COVID-19 situation closely for a possible return of restrictions.

“Businesses are struggling to get back on their feet and, unfortunately, with cases rising, we could see further restrictions coming, which could limit their ability to get back on their feet,” he told the task force last week.

Forty-six per cent if survey respondents said they won’t have their workers back on Sept. 1.

While five per cent of the survey respondents said sales had fallen by 100 per cent, 16 per cent reported a slight increase in sales. But the bulk of respondents were in the middle, with 19 per cent saying their sales had dropped by 50 to 74 per cent and 18 per cent said sales had fallen by 25 to 49 per cent.

When asked what would help the most in the recovery process, reducing taxes and fees and payroll/wage support were the most popular.

Many respondents to the chamber survey said they would implement lasting changes vis-à-vis working from home.

A little more than half said they would implement or expand work from home policies and 67 per cent said they would increase reliance on digital communications, sales, meetings and events.

“The working-from-home trend is definitely likely to continue for many months here among Richmond businesses,” Pitcairn said.

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