Retailers are getting 'impatient': Indigo CEO
The founder and head of Canada’s largest bookstore Indigo Books & Music Inc. says retailers cannot wait any longer for concrete support from the federal government.
“We’re getting impatient,” Heather Reisman, Indigo’s CEO said in an interview Wednesday with BNN Bloomberg’s Jon Erlichman.
Reisman is calling on Ottawa to take bigger steps to help retailers as optimism in the sector wanes.
“We’re hopeful, but honestly the government needs to move…This is the sector that really is the front-end of the economy, and it is a massive employer in Canada,” she said.
On Monday the federal government unveiled the Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF), which will provide bridge financing to Canada’s biggest businesses, but Reisman wants more clarity around the program.
“To be honest, it’s very hard to tell from the announcement that was made on Monday exactly what that program will be about. It simply was an indication that something was going to be done,” she said.
As for the rent relief program put forth by the federal government in April, Reisman says the small businesses she’s spoken to so far are not sure how it will work and how to access it. The program provides loans to commercial property owners to cover a portion of rent payments by small businesses struggling in April, May and June.
“I think what we’ve seen is a couple of good moves by the government but they’re at the very, very beginning of [taking] the steps to help this economy get back on track,” she said.
And as the economy starts to slowly reopen across the country, retailers will need to adapt to a new environment to ensure customers and employees are safe.
“We’re not going to live in full lockdown for 15 months, I don’t believe that.” she said.
According to Reisman, Indigo is already gearing up for the new reality. Some measures being put in place at brick-and-mortar stores include: plastic shields in front of cash registers, employees being required to wear gloves and masks, masks being available for customers, physical distancing, and constant sanitation.
It is “the only appropriate way to be in business during this period,” she said.
All of Indigo’s physical retail stores are currently closed, but the company’s online business is still operating.
“It is really challenging. There’s no way to sugarcoat what it’s like to have 200 stores fully closed…This is a huge impact on Indigo and it is a huge impact on anybody who’s been anywhere in the retail sector. I mean, this is big — this is really big,” she said.