Business is Back in Montreal, but for How Long?

Photo courtesy of the Creative Commons.

On March 23rd, 2020, the Quebec government declared that all non-essential businesses throughout the province must close as a precaution for the rampant and uncontrolled spread of COVID-19. 

Now, almost three months later, that order has been almost fully lifted. While certain businesses such as  bars, restaurants, and gyms, have rejoiced at the opportunity to serve their clients after months of closed doors, some businesses are still feeling the pain. 

According to a report published by McKinsey & Company, the global retail industry has been harshly impacted by the 14-week closure and the smaller the retail business, the more disproportionate and devastating the impact. Sadly enough, Montreal’s retail stores have been no exception to this sentiment, as retail sales fell nearly 31.3% in the month of April in the city. 

For nearly the last century, M.H. Grover and Sons has stood as a Montreal landmark in Verdun. A company that has weathered the effects of The Great Depression, the 1980s economic crash, and the 2008 Recession, owner Kenny Grover has said that they’ve never seen something as challenging as COVID-19. Grover has stated that “the first week was good, but every week after [was] poor” and that the current business is only about “50 to 60 percent” of normal sales.

Several of Montreal’s landmark businesses have been forced to completely shut down. Bar B Barn, which has provided some of the city’s highly touted fall-off-the-bone ribs and inexpensive BBQ chicken for the last 54 years, has been unable to weather the pandemic and recently announced their plans to shut down their downtown location. In fact, more than 40% of Montreal’s wide restaurant scene is expected to close down permanently due to reduced revenues following COVID-19.

According to Dr. Thomas Rivera, Associate Professor of Finance at McGill University, reopening might not be the answer to dwindling sales across the city. Rivera believes that most companies will suffer from the fact that consumers have already adapted to mostly online purchases, and that stores that lack a robust online business will be hit the hardest.

That said, not all businesses in Montreal have been struggling. Throughout the pandemic, hardware stores, such as  The Hub Hardware, have been booming with business as quarantined individuals have flooded the store’s supply of gardening tools and other household goods. Stan Rutkauskas, owner of the store, believes this is because “people just [need] to do something” while safely quarantining at home.

Nevertheless, with a second surge of COVID-19 across the neighboring United States and across other areas in the world, the only certainty business owners in Montreal have is that the future will be uncertain. With rising unemployment and a recession on the horizon across North America, there’s more worry than ever that – at least as long as COVID-19 is still around, reopening brick-and-mortar stores simply won’t be enough to save the bulk of businesses that make Montreal the vibrant city that it is.

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