‘I’m bleeding money so fast right now with empty malls,’ says a Bradford woman who owns a shop in the Georgian Mall
It was fall 2020 when Bradford business owner Kimberly Harvey Chase opened her first jewelry retail business, my little gem, in the Upper Canada Mall.
Prior to the onset of the pandemic, Chase’s business was seasonal, working as a vendor during the warmer months at various festivals and craft fairs.
When events were shut down in the onslaught of the pandemic, she pivoted her business model to open a retail store inside the Newmarket Mall, hire staff and even expand to add a second location to the Georgian Mall in Barrie.
Throughout the pandemic, she’s received $20,000 in government support, but she says that’s just not enough.
“I’ve tried several times to apply for the rent and payroll subsidy, but I don’t qualify,” she said, noting that because she pivoted her business during the seasonal pandemic throughout the year, it does not meet the criteria of the federal government. supports.
On January 7, 2022, the Ontario government introduced a $10,000 grant for small businesses likely to close. Since Chase’s stores are still open, she is not eligible for the subsidy.
Chase says she has about $65,000 in debt that she’s racked up throughout the pandemic trying to stay afloat, but is at her wit’s end when it comes to receiving money. other loans.
“I don’t have much more borrowing power to last longer,” she explained.
Chase was planning to add another store in Bradford this spring, but now says it won’t be able to.
“I’m bleeding money so fast right now with empty malls,” she said.
Currently, malls and malls are allowed to be open at 50% capacity, but even so, she says few shoppers come to the mall, citing apprehension surrounding the contagious omicron variant.
She is frustrated because many of the provincial supports introduced earlier this month are for businesses that have completely shut down. Although she is able to stay open, she says there are dwindling customers and sales, but she still has to pay rent, utilities, produce/inventory.
For her, she says it would have been better to close retail businesses rather than keep them open and receive government support.
“We are open but losing money at a rate where we could go bankrupt in just a few months,” she said.
Chase has an online store that is currently being updated, but notes that it hasn’t had much traffic to it. To entice shoppers, she even offered free shipping across Canada, but that didn’t help much, noting that many often turn to Amazon instead.
“People choose the easiest route instead of looking for a local business,” she lamented.
The provincial government has offered support to business owners throughout the pandemic to help them build websites and online sales platforms.
To be profitable, Chase says it needs to make sales of $15,000 per month per store. But now, instead of selling the $400-600 a day she needs, she sells less than $100 a day.
She said that even if she were to sell $11,000 a month, she said the debt might be manageable, but at this rate she is unsustainable and worried about the future of her business.
“We would still have a negative result, but at least those bills have been paid and we can focus on payroll,” she said.
With schools closed, Chase has to stay home with her two children instead of at the store, another expense to have an employee work for her.
She has four employees in Newmarket, three in Barrie and a floater who travels between the two. She has no scheduled overlaps, with only one person in the store at any given time.
“Their hours are 30 to 40 percent lower than they were before,” she said.
Yesterday, the federal government announced it would extend the deadline for small business loan forgiveness until December 2023. The Canada Emergency Business Account offered interest-free loans of up to $60,000 to small businesses. businesses and non-profit organizations.
For now, Chase hopes to hang on until its current leases end later this year and keep its eight employees on the payroll. She also hopes to see more people choose to shop local and support small businesses to help them through the current wave of COVID.