As people begin holiday shopping this Black Friday, some business associations in Metro Vancouver say they are optimistic this year will bring the boost stores need to recover from challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
They also say supporting locally owned businesses is more important than ever, after two holiday seasons of decreased customer traffic due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“A lot of businesses obviously were dramatically hurt and many didn’t recover from the pandemic,” said Laura Ballance, spokesperson for the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association (BIA).
Ballance says supporting small- and medium-sized businesses will help bring revenue to their respective communities.
“Small businesses in their community are the ones that hire — hire our neighbors, hire our children, support our community events,” she said.
She’s also encouraging people to support brick-and-mortar stores big and small over online retailers.
At least 84 businesses in downtown Vancouver permanently closed in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Downtown Vancouver BIA; almost half were independently owned.
“The last couple of years have not been great,” said Wally Wargolet, executive director of the Gastown Business Improvement Society.
Wargolet says businesses in that neighborhood saw an 80 per cent decline in revenue during the height of the pandemic, but he hopes this year will be different now that COVID-19 travel restrictions have eased.
“We’re anticipating there might be a spike in some of the tourism in Vancouver from our friends down in Washington,” he said.
“They’re going to want to have a coffee pickup or maybe grab something to eat. So it really is a benefit to the overall neighbourhood.”
Pandemic-shifted shopping online: Best Buy
Mathew Wilson with Best Buy Canada says the company’s stores are expecting more in-person shoppers with the lifting of restrictions.
“It’s an exciting year as people get more back into shopping in store,” said Wilson.
But he said the boom in online shopping during the pandemic has changed the way people choose to buy.
“I would say it’s kind of become a mix,” he said.
“People don’t sleep out overnight [to line up for deals] anymore but there are certainly still lines. There certainly is a great atmosphere with the excitement of the sale day.
“But there are definitely many people who continue to purchase products online and have it shipped to their home.”