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Regina local businesses struggling to stay afloat after COVID-19

“Sorry we’re closed.”

It’s a sign that more than a few local Regina businesses have been forced to hang outside the front window of their shop, as money is tight in 2024.

And while Annabel Townsend and her Tuppenny Coffee and Books aren’t there yet, it’s a sad possibility in the future. The café space with books for everyone has been forced to close during the week and is now only open Saturdays.

“It’s always a struggle but small businesses are not easy,” Townsend said sitting inside her other business, The Penny Bookstore. “The last few months have been really stressful because of my CEBA loan during the pandemic. It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“Then last fall the government said ‘pay back $40,000 right now.’ Strangely enough, I don’t have that money lying around.”

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Townsend said it is an incredibly difficult time to be a small business owner, and arguably more difficult now than during the COVID-19 pandemic when they received relief loans from the government.

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“We’re doing slightly worse than we were when they gave us money because the cost of everything has gone up” she said. “It’s getting more expensive to run the business but at the same time, everybody else is feeling the pinch as well. And given books and coffee are kind of luxury things, if you’re struggling, you’re going to stop spending on those sorts of things”

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Other local businesses like Prahsik have taken to social media to announce their closure, in part because of the post pandemic economy.

“I stuck it out for as long as I could, but the stress, burnout, and impacts I am dealing with from our current economy post-pandemic are not justifying my ability to both care for myself emotionally and physically as well as see growth in my business,” a social media post from the account reads.

Brianna Solberg, the director of provincial affairs with the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, said she has seen a similar response from businesses across the province.

“Small business owners have seen almost every line item in their budget increase in cost from food to fuel, rent, utilities, plus the pandemic-era loans that got them through COVID-19 were due back in January,” Solberg explained.

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Mix in the post-holiday shopping lull most people have, and it can break the back of many businesses.

“Business owners have seen their revenues decline at a time when they need the money the most and many find it hard to see a future where their business can recover and succeed.”

Solberg said she would like to see the government extend the deadline for COVID-19 relief payments, as many are still not able to afford it.

“Over 4,800 businesses across Canada filed for insolvency in 2023, and that’s the highest number in 13 years,” Solberg explained. Insolvency is when a company can no longer meet their financial obligations due to debt.

Towsend said she was able to pay the CEBA loan back, but only by borrowing money from other locations and having new loans.

She hopes moving forward, things will turn around.

“I’m really proud of this place,” Townsend said. “There’s a big community of book lovers … in Saskatchewan. I think there’s a definite niche for an independent bookstore like this.”

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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