Calgary Chamber of Commerce brings forward small business challenges

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by Emily Atkins

In the wake of Small Business Week, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce shared data on the state of small and medium enterprises.

Recent Q3 survey results, conducted by Statistics Canada in collaboration with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, found that Calgary small businesses are less optimistic about the year ahead relative to larger companies. While a number of pressures are contributing to this sentiment, inflation, rising costs and supply chain constrains are the leading factors.

“Small Business Week is an opportune time to promote – and even more importantly, celebrate – the businesses and the people behind them, who help power our economy,” said Deborah Yedlin, president and CEO of the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

“SMEs comprise a substantial portion of our workforce, stimulating local job creation and employment opportunities, lending to our city’s – and province’s economic growth and resiliency.”

Inflation

Smaller businesses – with one to four employees – are comparatively more concerned with inflationary impacts than larger firms, with 61.4 percent of respondents indicating challenges. Smaller businesses are disproportionately impacted by inflation, with many small businesses having less capacity to respond to a higher cost environment. Half of businesses with 100 employees or less expect operating expenses to increase over the next three months, yet only 12.5 percent expect profitability to increase – ultimately reducing profit margins and impacting the ability to raise prices.

Rising costs

Smaller businesses are also struggling with both debt serving costs and with maintaining sufficient cashflow. According to the Q3 results, businesses with less than 20 employees are eight percent more concerned than larger businesses with rising interest rates and debt servicing.

During the pandemic, nearly 900,000 individual businesses needed government support to remain afloat, with the vast majority being small business. Paying off these loans, in addition to other debts, in a high interest rate environment, is exacerbating the financial struggles for many businesses. As a result of these constraints, smaller businesses remain exposed in the sustained inflationary environment. Smaller firms (29.7 percent) are also more concerned with rising costs in real estate, leasing and property taxes and are twice as likely to struggle compared to larger businesses (11.6 percent) – which is contributing to their overall concern with rising costs.

Supply chains

Another challenge posed to smaller businesses is supply chain constraints. Businesses with five to 19 employees are struggling the most with acquiring inputs and products both within Canada (22.1 percent) and abroad (32.2 percent). This is amplified in concerns around supply chains, with larger firms expecting supply chains to be resolved at a faster pace than small and mid-sized business.