Today’s Business News Briefs

News briefs from Monday October 18:

Rural Canadian businesses continue to struggle through pandemic

In the third quarter, 45.1% of rural businesses cited the rising cost of inputs as an obstacle over the next three months. The rising cost of inputs has been cited as the most common short-term obstacle since the first quarter of 2021. The next three most common short-term obstacles rural businesses cited in the third quarter were recruiting skilled employees (37.6%), labour force shortages (33.9%) and cost of insurance (33.1%), says Statistics Canada. The share of rural businesses that anticipated facing no short-term obstacles rose by 9.0 percentage points from the second quarter, to 22.7%. The share of rural businesses that anticipated difficulties with a labour force shortage increased to 33.9% in the third quarter, up 6.8 percentage points from the previous quarter. The rural accommodation and food services industry had the highest rate of businesses anticipating short-term labour force shortages (64.7%). A larger share of rural businesses than urban businesses anticipated a labour force shortage for most industries, with the largest differences seen in wholesale trade (20.1 percentage points) and health care and social assistance (18.3 percentage points).

Net inflow of funds of $11.1 billion for Canadian economy

Foreign investors acquired $26.3 billion of Canadian securities in August, mainly in the form of debt securities. At the same time, Canadian investors resumed their purchases of foreign securities, adding $15.2 billion worth to their portfolios in August. As a result, international transactions in securities generated a net inflow of funds of $11.1 billion in the Canadian economy in August, following a net inflow of $18.7 billion in July, according to Statistics Canada.

Pandemic paused but hasn’t derailed Canadians’ ambitions: CIBC Poll

With the pandemic forcing many people to press pause on their goals, over half of Canadians (58 per cent) say they have re-evaluated what is truly important in their lives and a quarter (25 per cent) say the pandemic has even inspired them to create a bucket list of goals and ambitions. Those are some of the key findings of the 2021 CIBC Ambitions Survey. “Throughout the pandemic, we saw many Canadians delay their dreams and ambitions out of necessity, but as people look forward, we’re beginning to see bigger dreams return as priorities again,” says Carissa Lucreziano, Vice-President of Financial and Investment Advice at CIBC. While the pandemic has changed the world in many ways, a majority (73 per cent) affirm that their goals are much the same as before.  The top long-term ambitions remain travel (29 per cent) and eliminating debt (21 per cent). Making positive lifestyle changes, getting back on track after the pandemic, and saving for retirement round out the top five ambitions identified by respondents.

COVID-19 eroding standard of living for Canadians: BDO Affordability Index

The fourth-annual BDO Affordability Index from BDO Debt Solutions, which examines how affordable life is in Canada, shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is eroding the standard of living for many Canadians, while the rising cost of living has only added to their burden. To make matters worse, many don’t know how they are going to improve their situation. Among the key findings of the survey, 43 per cent of Canadians who carry debt added to their debt due to the pandemic, up four per cent compared to last year. One-quarter (26%) of Canadians incurred at least one new type of debt during the pandemic. Seven-in-10 (70%) say this new debt has made their standard of living worse, and only half (51%) of this group feel confident that they will be able to restore their standard of living to pre-pandemic levels. Spending on essentials, job loss and reduced income is also taking a larger toll on Canadians’ savings this year, as compared to last year. Of the 42 per cent of Canadians saving less or not at all during the pandemic, more than half (57%) said it was due to an increase in spending on essentials such as groceries and housing, an increase of 13 per cent from last year. Half (51%) said it was because of reduced income or job loss.

Canadians increasingly investing in home renovation projects even after the pandemic

Following the reopening of the economy after more than a year of the pandemic, Canadians still chose to allocate their finances to invest in home renovations. Simply Group, Canada’s non-bank consumer lender of choice, analyzed the first two quarters of 2021 to understand how Canadians planned their home improvement projects and the role of the pandemic in their home renovation decisions. Simply Group saw around a 30 per cent increase in home renovation loan applications in the second quarter of 2021 when compared to the first quarter of this year. Interestingly, this trend continued through August 2021, which reported a 15 per cent increase in loan applications when compared to July. From the summer months of May through August, June saw the most loan applications, followed by August and May, reflecting the surge in home improvement projects during summer. “As Canadians spent a significant amount of time at home, their increased disposable income provided an opportunity to invest in home renovation projects,” said Lawrence Krimker, CEO of Simply Group and owner of SNAP Financial. “Our data reflects that Canadians continue to prioritize their home improvement plans in a financially viable way. As the winter months approach, we expect this trend to continue throughout the remainder of the year.”

Playing digital defence: Small businesses stepping up their cyber security efforts: RBC poll

As the economy becomes increasingly digitized, cyber security concerns are rising to the top of business risks as ranked by Canadian small business owners – and for good reason. In a recent survey commissioned by RBC1, nearly half of Canada’s small business owners report that they anticipate becoming a victim of a cybercrime in the next 12 months – a percentage significantly higher than seen among the general population (34%). Forty per cent of small businesses identified that having devices infected by a virus or malware is now perceived as their biggest threat, ranking higher than falling victim to an online scam or fraud (24%), or property damage (24%). “Faced with a fast-changing landscape, small businesses are adapting by adopting more technology and adopting it faster than ever before,” says Adam Evans, RBC Chief Information Security Officer, RBC. “Though the increasingly digital economy has brought new challenges for Canada’s small businesses, our poll reveals that the risks are accompanied by a growing awareness of these hazards, indicating that small business owners are responding to these risks with the resilience and determination we’ve come to expect of them.”

Mixed-use remaking awakens Calgary’s ‘Red Mile’

Calgary’s 17th Avenue became famous as the ‘Red Mile’ when up to 55,000 Calgary Flames fans jammed the strip nightly during the 2004 Stanley Cup playoffs. The red-clad Flames lost that series but the image of a street bursting with youthful energy may have help inspire a current multimillion-dollar makeover of a four-block 17th Avenue strip. Calgary-based Arlington Street Investments, founded by president and CEO Frank Lonardelli, is now completing the third of seven major developments planned for the avenue, including the first purpose-built rental units in the area in 25 years. “The 17th Avenue corridor has a higher pedestrian traffic per capita than any other city street in Canada,” Lonardelli said, who began implementing his redevelopment plan eight years ago with the purchase of 42 parcels.

Vegan Handbag Designer Mélissa Lambert Opens Flagship Store in Trendy Le Plateau-Mont-Royal in Montreal

Well-known Canadian vegan handbag designer Mélissa Lambert has opened her flagship store in Montreal in the trendy Le Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood after buying the building. Lambert Design, with about 2,500 square feet of retail space, is located on the busy rue Saint-Denis near Laurier. It sells handbags, backpacks and accessories. “At the beginning during COVID we were looking for new offices because the team was growing really fast and we needed more space. I started looking at what kind of office we could rent,” said Lambert. “I found this amazing building. “It was really beautiful and I had this idea of opening a new flagship for Lambert. So on the first floor you have this really nice boutique of Lambert. The only one. And on the second floor you have all the head office. So I started all the process for buying this building and we started renovating and we just opened it at the beginning of September.”

News briefs from Sunday October 17:

US-Based ‘Jon Smith Subs’ Opens 1st Canadian Storefront with Plans for Cross-Country Expansion

Florida-based sandwich shop, Jon Smith Subs, has opened its first Canadian location in Calgary with plans to significantly grow the brand across the country. The foodservice company began operations in 1988 with its first location in West Palm Beach. Jon Smith started the company and grew it to a chain of sub shops in Palm Beach County, Florida. “He had that until probably five, six years ago. We partnered up with him and then we took over the franchising rights outside of Palm Beach County. We’ve been franchising for only about four years. We have 25 locations that are up and operational. We have about 42 that are in development right now and we’re in five countries – UK, Canada, US, Panama and Colombia,” said Jim Butler, Brand President of Jon Smith Subs.

Automated Cashierless Grocery Store Concept ‘Aisle 24’ Launches Aggressive Cross-Canada Store Expansion

Aisle 24, a fully automated, cashierless grocery store concept that is open 24/7, is in expansion mode with plans to open numerous locations across the country. John Douang, Co-Founder & CEO of the company which opened its first location in Toronto in 2016, said the hyperlocal, unmanned market is in nine locations currently in Ontario and Quebec and about 30 stores are in the queue in either lease discussions and construction including in British Columbia. “We utilize a lot of technology to supplement the store operations and we use a lot of our own platform of technology in order to secure the stores. All the stores are unmanned. We don’t have cashiers and we don’t have staff that are on site to greet customers or anything like that,” said Douang. “The stores are 24/7, 365 days a year and the way it works is that all of our customers download our mobile app. They create their account and then they get access to the stores.”

End of Government Subsidies for Retailers and Businesses this Month Could Spell Doom Amid 4th Wave

Canadian small businesses are worried that crucial wage and rent subsidy support programs from the federal government are scheduled to come to an end on October 23 and they have yet to hear if those lifesaving initiatives will be continued. With ongoing capacity restrictions in certain parts of the country, a labour shortage growing and continued uncertainty about the impact and length of the brutal fourth wave of the pandemic, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business is urging the government to immediately extend and expand these programs. The same sentiment is being echoed by other business groups across the country including Restaurants Canada and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “Businesses need certainty as so many are still dodging constant curveballs with a slow pick-up in revenues, labour shortages, and wariness around ongoing restrictions in the months ahead,” said Corinne Pohlmann, Senior Vice-President of National Affairs at CFIB.  “No business owner expects government support forever, but they need to know they have something to rely on until all restrictions are lifted, and they can fully operate their business once again. They can’t afford for the government to dawdle until the last minute. “The end of the pandemic may be in sight for some, but business owners are just not there yet. Small businesses will take an average of two years to recover from the pandemic. Pulling support at such a critical moment in their recovery would be a huge misstep.”

Anthem building two Calgary shopping centres

Vancouver-based real estate company Anthem continues to be bullish on the Calgary market and needs-based retail, launching two new shopping centre projects in the region to service growing residential communities. The firm also announced the acquisition of the 300,612-square-foot Junction Shopping Centre in Mission, B.C. The grocery-anchored, tier-1 property was acquired in partnership with Crestpoint Real Estate Investments. “Calgary is a core market for Anthem. It is a great city, with great people. It is affordable, has a well-educated population and is a better deal for families, all in, than Toronto or Vancouver,” said Isaac Beall, Anthem’s senior director of development, during an interview with RENX. “It will grow and Anthem will continue to build homes, develop new communities and lease up commercial and industrial spaces to those people requiring it.”

Summit buys two-building Calgary Logistics Centre for $126M

Summit Industrial Income REIT is expanding its presence in Calgary with the purchase of two newly constructed class-A distribution centres totalling 725,000 square feet of gross leasable area near the Calgary International Airport. The Logistics Centre was developed through a partnership between Montez Corporation and Hopewell Development LP.  The transaction, which is expected to close early in the fourth quarter, is valued at $126 million, representing a stabilized cap rate of 4.3 per cent.

Alberta poised to capitalize on hydrogen energy: CBRE

Alberta is well positioned to capitalize on the growing hydrogen industry and attract investment to the Edmonton region, according to a new report by commercial real estate firm CBRE. David Young, executive vice president, managing director CBRE capital markets, said the company felt there is a need to sell and promote the province to convince investors “our economy is not just simply a one-trick pony. “It’s super important for us to show the C-suite at the Canadian pension funds what’s actually driving our economy. Why would you want to invest in a region that has nothing going on? “But this hydrogen hub opportunity that we’re promoting, it’s real. This is a reason they should be here,” said Young. According to the CBRE report, Hydrogen Energy in Alberta, Canada has certain advantages which position it to lead the global hydrogen movement, including extensive hydroelectric generation and freshwater capacity, production resources and proximity to international markets.

Reframed Initiative seeks retrofit model for thousands of buildings

The Reframed Initiative has been launched to accelerate deep building retrofits that can help Canada meet its net-zero emissions target by 2050. Reframed is a market development initiative of the BC Non-Profit Housing Association, the City of VancouverMetro Vancouver Housing Corporation and the Pembina Institute. Betsy Agar, senior analyst, buildings and urban solutions for the Pembina Institute, said it estimates Canada needs to invest $10-$15 billion a year into deep retrofits and electrification to reduce home energy demand, drive down carbon emissions, improve health and wellbeing, adapt homes to coming climate shocks and integrate them to work better with the electrical grid.

Carrier acquires BrokerBay; will pair it with Supra

Carrier Global Corporation, which operates Supra with its real estate lockbox management and mobile credentialing business, is acquiring Toronto-based BrokerBay Inc., a pioneer in the development of a real estate management cloud ecosystem. BrokerBay and Supra will provide a one-stop shop for Realtors that “combines scheduling and mobile lockbox access in an intuitive, user-friendly showing experience to empower agents, reduce workload and provide actionable analytics,” says Carrier in a news release. The software’s ability to reduce a brokerage’s administrative workload, streamline the real estate scheduling and showing experience, as well as standardize electronic lockbox access, will strengthen Carrier’s leading access solutions offering within its fire and security business, says the company.


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