Businesses and restaurants in Victoria’s downtown core are reporting strong summer sales heading into a slower fall season.
The Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) said typically shops and cafes in the core rely on tourists in the summer to help boost profits before heading into fall, which tends to be a quieter period.
Jeff Bray, CEO of DVBA, said there was some worry about what this summer would look like in terms of tourism, but businesses seem to be in great shape.
“We may even be in a better fall situation than we were in 2018/2019, pre-pandemic,” Bray said.
According to the DVBA, tourism numbers seemed to be close to pre-pandemic levels. Bray said some businesses were reporting higher sales this year compared to 2019.
He added the only businesses that reported lower revenue were those that cater to international tourists.
“Of course, we had some restrictions, we had a cruise ship season that was very successful but the boats are coming a bit later and we still don’t have all the European or Asian tourists we normally get,” Bray said.
Bray told CHEK News that 10,000 people currently live in the downtown core so these shops and restaurants are their neighbourhood spots, people have also embraced the idea of shopping local which has helped as well.
He isn’t expecting shopping to slow down too much over the fall.
“People love to come downtown, love to sort of combine shopping with a meal or a beverage, or to see one of the great events that are happening downtown,” he said. “I think we will have a bit of a slow down as we traditionally do, but nothing like the pandemic levels or those concerns.”
The biggest problem businesses reported to the DVBA over the summer was a lack of staff.
The BC Restaurant & Food Services Association (BCRFA) said that was the biggest issue in its industry as well.
Ian Tostenson, president and CEO of BCRFA, said restaurants are operating with 80 per cent of their staff.
“Most restaurants can’t get to full capacity because they can’t open certain sections or they have to close on certain days to make sure we don’t get burn out across all our staff,” Tostenson said.
He added the other hit to the food service industry this summer was the BCGEU strike that stopped liquor distributions in August.
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Tostenson said restaurant owners and staff were spending time running between liquor stores to keep the bars stocked, meaning they couldn’t open more sections to welcome more customers.
He says restaurants typically rely on that last summer patio season push to get them through fall before holiday parties start up in the winter.
“It came at an unfortunate time,” Tostenson added.
Despite that, the BCRFA reported a busy summer in Victoria, adding some restaurants are looking forward to a slower few weeks.
“That will allow business owners to regroup, take a bit of a breather, take a bit of a rest and then get ready for the holiday season,” Tostenson said.