For businesses in Canada, COVID-19 changed everything. It changed the way they operate, communicate, and ultimately, how they drive revenue. The impact has been profound and unprecedented.
Most provinces and territories experienced waves of outbreaks and lockdowns, which unfortunately meant the end of some businesses and the evolution of others. As daily cases dip, and Canada approaches its vaccination targets, every business finds itself being forced to adapt to the trends established during the pandemic.
COVID-19 has resulted in Canadians experiencing their lowest level of satisfaction since 2003, the year this data started being collected by Statistics Canada. The shifts in our social behaviour from how we engage with businesses to how we spend time with others has been drastic.
Will Consumers Come Rushing Back?
In October 2020, nearly one-third of Canadians claimed that their mental health had worsened since before the pandemic, according to Environics Analytics. More specifically, women reported more of a decline in their mental health, and the age group of 35-49 was seemingly hit the hardest.
Tourism and Foot Traffic
Businesses that rely on tourism and those that are used to profiting from foot traffic should be closely monitoring the news. Border restrictions and the public response to being able to freely travel or visit certain places could impact some businesses.
COVID-19 caused a sharp downturn in the Canadian economy. Social distancing limited general economic activity and many Canadians experienced either a reduction in their income or lost their jobs entirely.
Going forward, most businesses will have the opportunity to benefit from recent economic trends. For starters, as more and more people regain their pre-pandemic income levels, they might be eager to spend. The pandemic also expedited the popularity of online shopping. This trend might continue to grow as people are nervous about returning to crowded stores or have grown accustomed to the convenience of shopping with only a few clicks. Businesses should continue to embrace their own digitization and invest in the tools (online marketing, e-commerce, and web design) to survive, or even thrive.
Another trend that emerged from the pandemic is the desire to shop local. This trend was making waves prior to 2020, but the pandemic brought to life the challenges that a local business must overcome compared to a monolith like Amazon.
Local businesses could end up gaining in the long run and should consider ways to double down on this goodwill from their community.
Trends within the national housing market could have a far-reaching impact. With less inventory, no open houses and fewer buyers willing to take financial risks, many prominent housing markets across the country suffered. Yes, historically strong markets like Toronto have returned to health, but that might not be the case for other parts of Canada.
The demand should be there for many housing markets to rebound once restrictions are lifted. This means that businesses that are tied to the housing market like insurance, real estate brokerages, home repair, and maintenance should prepare to be busy soon.
As of April 2020, the number of employed people in Canada dropped from 18.8 million to 15.9 million, according to Environics Analytics. As we move further away from the most recent lockdown, these numbers should improve.
Government intervention, or the lack thereof, may dictate employment trends going forward. Additionally, how Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs respond to once again having the opportunity to hire will be telling. Some might be gun-shy about investing in staff if they are making less profits.
It didn’t take long for COVID-19 to become a political issue in Canada. Businesses were left twisting in the wind during lockdowns and should feel charged to have their political voice heard.
2020 and 2021 have also been mired by political divisiveness. This resounded with businesses, many of whom couldn’t sit on the sidelines as calls for equality dominated headlines.
Nowadays, many consumers are carefully choosing who deserves their money. Businesses need to be strategic and make sure they are transparent without letting their personal beliefs get in the way of profits.
Public health will continue to be an attention-grabbing issue. How provincial and municipal leaders work with business owners and entrepreneurs with respect to ongoing health measures that could slow or speed up the economy will be key.
Businesses will continue to have to balance their COVID-19 safety measures and the health and safety of their staff and customers with their ability to regain the profits that they lost over the course of multiple closures and lockdowns.
Forecasting Canada’s Trends Coming Out of COVID-19
Canada could be in store for an economic rebound. It might be a slow climb back for some sectors, but there is hope that we, as a nation, are approaching the light at the end of the tunnel.
The social changes we endured might be longer-lasting or even permanent. COVID-19 has changed our daily lives, and to think we can go back to our old ways of living and doing business might be unreasonable.
It’s tough to predict the ripple effect that will come as more and more Canadians head back to work and businesses welcome back customers. Will unemployment drop? Will oil prices rise? Will people have lunch in a crowded restaurant? Only time can answer these questions.
As 2021 charges forward, Canadians will most likely find themselves in a new era, one defined by the social, economic and political trends brought forth by the fight against COVID-19.
Rob Shapiro | Contributing Writer