CALGARY – Tony Stephen’s Calgary dry cleaning company maintained and pressed thousands of items of clothing every day, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the business to its knees.
“It kind of sucked from a business standpoint,” says Stephen, the CEO of Tower Cleaners.
Its business consists of 25 locations in Calgary and Airdrie. A huge central facility cleans, steams, squeezes, and packages everything from wedding dresses to airplane blankets.
More and more people have been working from home and choosing sweatpants over suits. Office towers are mostly empty, the hotel industry has been hit hard, and daily deliveries of shirts, pants and uniforms have slowed.
“Our downtown stores are currently down 80 percent (in store). We have six of our stores that are currently closed,” says Stephen.
He says his staff cleaned and folded 6,000 pounds of gym towels every day before the pandemic. Because gyms and fitness facilities are limited, the machines tend to sit quietly.
Corporate debt in Alberta is increasing
Restaurants are still subject to restrictions and some retail stores have reduced opening hours. All of this adds to the growing debt that small businesses face.
“Overall, small businesses across the province have borrowed $ 21 billion, an average of around $ 168,000 per small business in terms of COVID-19-related debt,” said Annie Dormuth of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB). . That number is up from $ 18 billion in July.
The group’s latest report shows that three-quarters of small business owners say it will take more than a year to pay off their debts. 11 percent of operators fear that they will never be able to cover their debts.
The CFIB says government support programs for small businesses need to continue long after the pandemic is in the rearview mirror.
“Unfortunately, there is no end in sight for many of these sectors when they can return to profitability,” says Dormuth.