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COVID-19 weighed on sales in Calgary, but optimism persists: poll

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The majority of businesses in Calgary saw sales decline last year as the COVID-19 pandemic changed public life

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Jason Herring The Calgary skyline was photographed on an overcast day on Wednesday March 24, 2021. Photo by Azin Ghaffari / Postmedia

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The majority of Calgary businesses saw sales decline last year as the COVID-19 pandemic changed public life but optimism about a recovery grows.

This is among the results of a survey commissioned by the Calgary Chamber of Commerce and conducted by Trend Research. The survey polled 250 companies in the Calgary area at random from late February to early March.

Seventy-one percent of companies that responded have seen a decline in sales since the pandemic began, while those that lost money saw an average decrease of 49 percent.

“It shows the complexity and nature of the challenges different companies face,” said Murray Sigler, interim CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

“This in turn helps the Chamber to find out how we can support them in our legal work.”

Companies in the service sector were most likely to see a decline in sales. 80 percent of these companies recorded a decline, while 78 percent of medium-sized companies with 10 to 49 employees also lost money.

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While the survey shows the business problems of the past year, it also shows “some resilience or reasonable optimism,” said Sigler. 62 percent of companies are optimistic about Alberta’s economic future, up seven percent from September.

The increased hope could be due to Calgarians anticipating the end of the pandemic, he said. Alberta has announced that it will give the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to all adults who want the vaccine by the end of June.

“I think there was a feeling that we could see the pandemic challenges in the next few monthsmet head-on with the introduction of the vaccination program, ”said Sigler.

“If that happens when we move into the summer, it will actually lead to an absolute recovery in our economy.”

That sense of trust extends to companies’ hiring plans over the next six months. Around twice as many companies plan to hire staff during this period (36 percent) than to lay off employees (17 percent).

A significant number of Calgary companies have accessed government aid programs introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, 70 percent of companies have accessed at least one support program. The Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy was used by more than half of the respondents, while 47 percent used the Canadian Emergency Business Account.

“The support programs were well received,” said Sigler. “That is cross-industry.”

Sigler emphasized that the survey is only a moment. Recent developments – including the Rogers-Shaw and Canadian Pacific Railway-Kansas City Southern mega-mergers, the proliferation of more contagious COVID-19 variants, and the Supreme Court’s decision on carbon tax – could further sway the business in one direction or another .

“It just shows how volatile time is,” he said.

jherring@postmedia.com

Twitter: @jasonfherring

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