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There's no (small) business like snow business

How the February snowfall has affected small businesses
Last February in Vancouver. Look familiar? (Pepperer85 /

Early this week, Vancouver, Victoria, and their surrounding areas were hit with between 10 and 20 centimetres of snow. School was cancelled for elementary and high school students - even UBC called a snow day and cancelled classes. Certain employers encouraged their staff to work from home instead of coming in to the office.

The city, usually bustling with traffic and activity, slowed to a grinding halt.

Many mom and pop shops stayed closed for the day and even larger chain stores in Greater Vancouver sent their staff home early to get home safely. In some cases, staff isn’t paid for that time off – and that affects everyone’s bottom line.

The economic impact of a day or two with no sales might not be that big for some but the overall pattern that a storm can have is interesting to watch.

On Vancouver Island, for example, the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce estimated the impact of this week’s snowstorm on the Saanich Peninsula economy would be about $2.5 million, based on available figures and estimates

There were however those few types businesses which saw their sales spike.

Rob Thibault, client manager for Snowcleared, a snow removal company, has had roughly two hours of sleep over the few days of snowfall. His voicemail says, “If you’re calling to request snow clearing to your property, we’re all booked up. If you’re calling to find out when we’ll be at your site, we have dispatched a full round to all our sites and will be there as soon as weather permits.”

Thibault said he could barely see the end in sight.

At West Coast Sports in Vancouver, IT guy Cameron Jackson said he has seen a spike in certain merchandise:

“Ski rentals have gone up.”

His store, which sells snow sport equipment and sports gear, “sales have gone up by about 10 to 15 per cent.”

Parents were buying sleds for their children and shovels from Canadian Tire to clear their driveways. It brought back memories of the famed salt shortage with a Vancouverite making the news for selling salt – given away for free at the fire halls – for $80 a bucket on Craigslist.

Towing companies and car repair shops often see a spike in business with the accidents that come with heavy snowfall. On Tuesday afternoon alone, there were over 20 cars in the ditch between Chilliwack and downtown Vancouver.

In 2017, the City of Vancouver’s general manager asked council to approve increasing the snow clearing budget from $780,000 to $1.62 million – which according to estimates, is less than the overall economic cost of shutdown anyway.

The City responded that year’s winter was “an event that happens once every 30 years.”

As 2019 alone shows, it doesn’t seem that’s the case.

There’s a reason Eastern Canada laughs at us when our cities shut down over 10 centimeters of snow.

Ada Slivinski is the Founder & Principal of Jam PR, a boutique agency focused on helping small businesses get big exposure. You can reach her at [email protected]