Vancouver business closures doubled at outset of pandemic: StatsCan

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What happened: New data reveals a surge of business closures across both Metro Vancouver and B.C. in March and April

Why it matters: The province has since entered Phase 3 of reopening the economy but the permanent impacts of the pandemic remains unclear

Lockdown measures at the outset of the COVID-19 crisis appear to have shuttered Metro Vancouver businesses at nearly double the rate recorded a year earlier, according to Statistics Canada. 

Data released Wednesday (August 5) reveals 7,477 businesses closed in March compared with 3,636 businesses a year earlier.

That grew slightly to 7,603 business closures in April compared with 3,948 business closures during April 2019.

The 15,080 closures recorded for March and April are almost double the 7,584 closures recorded for those same months a year ago.

Data from the national statistics agency does not delineate between temporary and permanent closures.

But the figures mark months when much of the provincial economy was still in lockdown mode for all but essential services.

A total of 11,847 businesses in B.C. closed in March of this year, while 13,715 B.C. businesses closed the following month.

That’s up from the 6,687 businesses that closed in March 2019 and 6,793 businesses that closed in April 2019.

Like Metro Vancouver, the rate of business closures year over year nearly doubled across the province at the outset of the pandemic (13,480 vs. 25,562).

Meanwhile, Vancity (Vancouver City Savings Credit Union) published a report Tuesday examining the economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on four city corridors in B.C.: East Hastings Avenue in Vancouver, Government Street in Victoria, 137th Street in Surrey and Tranquille Road in Kamloops.

The report found that in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood the number of visits to the area fell 42% in April compared with the 81,989 visits to the area recorded the same month a year ago.

Eleven out of 20 food or retail businesses had an online presence, while only about one-third of those businesses could accommodate online orders.

“During lockdown, restaurants, cafes and food shops laid off staff and generally operated with minimal resources to provide take-out and delivery options. Most have reopened, but the BIA [business improvement association] predicts that those that have not added online service options will be challenged over the long term,” the report states.

“The coworking space and professional services businesses on the block continue to see tenants and staff work from home. This impacts neighbouring businesses, who relied on the foot traffic and daytime visitors.”

The Vancity report concluded one diner serving low-income residents has since closed permanently, while three businesses have closed temporarily.

The report was prepared the week of July 6 and will be updated in September with new data.

torton@biv.com

@reporton