The Surrey Board of Trade has released the Surrey Pulse Survey today, which gives the only on-the-ground snapshot of how Surrey businesses are doing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Surrey businesses are resilient,” said Anita Huberman, CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. “But there are challenges to survive this pandemic. If provincial health orders shut down segments of industries without government support, then there will be continued negative impacts to not only Surrey’s economy but also BC’s economy.”
1. Surrey businesses are resilient – only 5% have closed; 18% have partially re-opened; 27% have mostly or fully opened; and 23% have experienced no impacts or increased their operations.
2. However, Surrey businesses are seriously impacted by the pandemic – 48% have disrupted supply chains; 46% are experiencing staff absences; 44% say caution is keeping customers away; and 41% have reduced demand for their products or services.
3. E-commerce and digital transformation – 56% of Surrey businesses have shifted one-quarter to 100% of their business to e-commerce and digital work.
4. Staff impacts – One in six Surrey businesses have the majority of their staff laid off or shifted to non-regular/non-full-time work. 41% of Surrey businesses report that staff safety concerns prevent them from returning to or remaining at the workplace.
5. Government support is mixed – The federal CEWS and CERB programs are most used by Surrey employers and most Surrey businesses do not quality the most for LEEFF and CECRA funding.
6. Surrey businesses need different support – 81% of Surrey businesses want general tax credits/tax cuts; 80% want greater economic stimulus funding; 79% want reduced interest rates; and 78% want better/more payroll tax breaks; and
7. Surrey business optimism is mixed – 37% of Surrey businesses expect business to return to pre-COVID staffing and revenue levels by or before Q1 or Q2 of 2021. 27% percent expect that they will not see pre-COVID levels in staffing and revenue until 2022, later or never (3%).
Shift to E-commerce or Digital Work
In this environment, it is interesting that 39% of respondents indicated that none of their business has shifted to e-commerce or digital work. On the other hand, more than half had shifted their business in this direction: 26% had shifted 75% to 100% of their business; and 28% of respondents had shifted by 25% to 50%.
An encouraging 44% of respondents are currently at pre-pandemic staffing levels or above (4% are above pre-pandemic levels). However, a significant almost 20% of responding businesses have experienced 40% to 100% of their being laid off and/or shifting to part-time/temporary/ seasonal status. One in six business have the majority of their staff laid off or shifted to non-regular/non-full-time work.
Key Barriers to Getting Employees Back to Work (and Retaining)
The key barriers to bringing back and/or retaining workers most cited by respondents were (percentages are the proportion of respondents that selected each barrier):
1. Employee safety concerns (41%)
2. Social distancing requirements (40%)
3. Other (29%)
4. CERB/Government benefits have discouraged employees from returning (22%)
5. Requirement for fewer workers to be operating (21%)
6. Staffing costs (14%)
7. Difficulty for employees to get safely to and from work (12%)
Extent of Certain Challenges
The most significant impacts reflected by the proportion of respondents were:
• Disruptions in services or supplies need to run one’s business (48%)
• Staff absences due to voluntary/mandatory self-quarantine (46%)
• Heightened public fear causing customers to avoid their location or services (44%)
• Decreased demand for businesses’ products or services (41%)
• Almost four-in-ten businesses experienced an increase in demand for their products or services
Use of Existing Government Relief Programs
• Thirty-five percent of businesses have used or are using the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy program, and a further 5% plan to use it. The balance either do not need it (31%) or do not qualify (29%).
• More than one-quarter (26%) of Surrey businesses are using or have used Canada Emergency Business Account and a further 9% plan to do so. Two-thirds either do not need it (39%) or do not qualify (26%) for it.
• An equal number of Surrey businesses are either using/did use (6%) or plan to use (6%) the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance. Half of businesses do not need it and another 38% do not qualify.
• Business Credit Availability Program is being used or have been used by 8% of Surrey businesses, with a further 10% planning to use it. More than half (52%) indicate they do not need it and a further 30% do not qualify for it.
• Only 1% responding business is using or has used Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), while an additional 3% are planning to do so. Half of businesses indicate they do not qualify and 46% indicate they do not need LEEFF support.
• CEWS and CERB are the most used in Surrey
• BCAP and CERB are the programs most planned to be used
• The programs where Surrey businesses do not quality the most are LEEFF and CECRA
Usefulness of Types of Assistance Programs
The most popular types of assistance among Surrey businesses are:
1. General tax credits/cuts (81% believe very or somewhat useful)
2. Greater economic stimulus funding like business improvement grants (80%)
3. Better/more payroll tax breaks (78%)
4. Reduced interest rates (79%)
The options of least interest to Surrey employers are:
1. Business counselling (56% not useful at all)
2. Suspension of loan payments (43%)
3. Delayed municipal property tax payments (42%)
4. Better/more rent or lease assistance (41%)
Comments on Assistance Programs
• Some businesses’ comments related to improving or increasing existing programs such as CEBA, CEWS and CECRA, arts/tourism supports and the BC SBRG.
• A few businesses’ comments suggested the need for rapid and on-site testing, including SBOT setting up a testing centre; and educating smaller employers in the Fraser Valley on COVID-19 health and safety practices.
• A few businesses’ comments referred to various types of economic stimulus efforts.
Expectations on Returning to Pre-COVID Staff and Revenue Levels
When asked when they expect business to return to pre-COVID staffing and revenue levels, 37% of Surrey businesses responded that they thought this would happen by or before Q1 or Q2 of 2021.
Another 37% of businesses believe this will not happen until Q3 or Q4 in 202.
27% percent were even less optimistic and expect that they will not see pre-COVID levels in staffing and revenue until 2022, later or never (3%):
* CEWS (Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program); CERB (Canada Emergency Response Benefit Program); LEEFF (Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility Program); CECRA (Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance Program).