The pandemic has eased off, which has allowed Nelson businesses to open up and start getting back to normal, but just how much of an impact did the past two years have on local commerce in the community?
“The chamber undertook a study to better understand how the pandemic and a new mix of global and local challenges have impacted the local community and the future of the city’s economy,” says Darren Davidson, chamber economic recovery advisor.
According to Davidson, there are 1,400 business license holders in the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce market and all face similar challenges in a post-pandemic world. The markets facing the biggest impacts are food and beverage, retail, and construction/development.
“The challenges that were noticed first and foremost were workforce/labour, inflation, fuel and housing, insurance and financing, followed by natural disaster and climate change,” says Davidson. “These issues have had more or less of an impact depending on the industry you work with.”
Davidson says each category comes with specific challenges businesses need to address. For example, the issues with labour stem from retention and workforce housing.
“Workplaces are able to find new staff, and keep them,” Davidson said. “But keeping them happy is the hard part.”
According to Davidson, even though there are some negative impacts across the three industries there are some positive sides as well.
“It wasn’t all bad news,” says Davidson. “For the food and beverage [industry] the server trade has bounced back. Gratuities are higher, and Selkirk College’s hospitality program has become a vital benefit to that sector.”
According to Davidson, the pandemic has eased considerably but there are more obstacles to overcome as Nelson moves from “one frying pan into the other.”
“Business owners and workers were entitled to an enormous amount of financial aid over the pandemic,” he says. “This influx of cash overheated the economy and caused the inflation we are experiencing, and possibly a recession.”
He anticipates, after talking to several businesses in Kimberley, that the local economy could be seeing a deflationary period with a drop in prices.
“I talked to a couple of ski business owners and they suggest that we will see prices fall, and we could see deflation by the spring,” he says. “This is coupled with the fact that shipping container prices are starting to drop.They are astronomically high and they have almost dropped back to regular prices.”
Davidson says to help restore the economy Nelson needs to keep dollars in the local economy, which is being done.
“The chamber is aiming to show support and fortitude for the community, as it always has,” says Davidson.
Other issues the chamber noticed that impacted local commerce were supply chain, e-commerce, and public health orders (response from the provincial and federal government to the pandemic).