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Holiday season make-it-or-break-it for some Ottawa small businesses

The holidays are essential for small businesses and with many still recovering from the pandemic, they say shopping local has never been more important for their survival.

“It’s the first time since I’ve opened my business I’ve ever even considered that I might have to evaluate its future,” said Jackie Morphy, owner of All Eco, a wellness store on Bank Street.

When Morphy opened her business four years ago, she never imagined this holiday season could be her last.

For Morphy, opening before the pandemic meant navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and the financial aftermath of lockdowns.

While things may be back to normal, Morphy says that doesn’t mean it is back to business.

“Foot traffic has not recovered and in speaking with many other businesses, a lot of them have not reached their pre-COVID-19 sales,” Morphy said.

Relying on savings and government loans to make it this far, she says this holiday season is make-it-or-break-it.

In fact, 60 per cent of small businesses are still carrying pandemic debt with an average amount of $126,000, according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“Everyone is facing inflation including them, so their input costs are going up but their revenues are going down so the situation is not ideal,” said Christian Santini, CFIB National Affairs Director.

“They’re not in a good position to pay off the debt they’ve accumulated just to keep their doors open.”

Santini says this holiday season is critical for survival for many small businesses, encouraging shoppers to check-off their holiday lists locally.

She adds for every dollar spent at a local business, 66 cents stays in the community.

“We’re often the ones that give gift certificates to the events that local people are going to whether they’re charity events or sports teams,” said Chantal Biro, owner of Schad Boutique, a women's clothing store on Sussex Drive.

Biro says December used to be her best month, but it’s now her worst. She says businesses like hers can’t compete with big box stores.

“We don’t necessarily get the same discounts that they do because we don’t have the same buying power,” said Biro.

As shoppers tighten their budgets, offering lower priced items is one way Morphy hopes to make it through the holidays and survive another year.

The deadline to payback pandemic loans was extended to January, but with inflation and price increases, the CFIB is calling for repayments to be delayed another year. Top Stories

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