First COVID-19 business survey offers insight to guide recovery

downtown Kingston
Whit storefront on Princess Street, displaying the #ygkstrong hashtag. Many businesses indicated shop-local campaigns as useful economic recovery tools in a recent survey. Photo by Samantha Butler-Hassan.

Nearly 60 percent of Kingston businesses in the arts, services and hospitality sector have indicated that on-going mandatory closures or restricted operations could force them to close, according to a report from the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO). 

A survey of 203 local businesses was carried out between Thursday, Apr. 23 and Tuesday, May 19, 2020. KEDCO’s Business Development Officer, Ian Murdoch, presented the results of the survey to Kingston’s Economic Recovery Team (KERT) on Thursday, Jun. 4, 2020. 

“A large number of our business sectors are relying on government supports at this time,” Murdoch said, noting that between 64 and 70 per cent of businesses across the arts, services, hospitality, construction and manufacturing sectors reported that they have or will take advantage of government support programs to stay open.

“We have to realize that these businesses will have to come off these supports at some point,” he told the committee.

When asked what types of local programs would be most beneficial to support their business, 60.2 percent of businesses in arts, services and hospitality indicated a buy-local campaign. In construction and manufacturing, the most common response was tax deferral. 

Both sectors identified health and safety awareness as one of the top challenges to reintegrate the community, and move into a local recovery period. 

“Based on my background in health and safety work,” Murdoch said, “having the general community understand what’s safe and what isn’t safe is a big communication task that we’re all responsible for.” 

Concerning lay-offs, 93 of the total 203 businesses surveyed reported that they have not laid any staff off. Meanwhile, 46 businesses reported laying off their entire staff due to COVID-19. 

Nearly half, 45.8 per cent of respondents, indicated that they created new efficiencies in operations that they can carry forward through recovery, such as a move to online retail models, and implementation of work-from-home policies for employees. 

Murdoch said the surveys will continue quarterly, and KEDCO is hoping for increased uptake from the local business community. 

“I would love to see the number of participants quadruple,” he said.

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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