After 2 years in the pandemic economy, businesses still face uncertainty
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On Friday, it will be two years since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Since then, businesses around the world have dealt with supply chain problems, changing safety protocols, rising prices and a tight labor market, to say nothing of the current geopolitical disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In the early days of the pandemic, “Marketplace” spoke with business leaders in a variety of industries, including Eric Joo, director of a polyester textile mill in Choloma, Honduras; Raffaella Grasso, owner of a high-fashion embroidery company in Milan; and Shelley Frost, CEO of the nonprofit events organization Pacific National Exhibition, which operates an amusement park and multiple venues in Vancouver, British Columbia. After two years, the three shared how things are going now and where they think their businesses might be headed.
Eric Joo, director of United Textiles of America in Choloma, Honduras
Business demand is very strong, but inflationary pressures and all of the price increases that have been happening have been making it very difficult to plan for the future. You can see the pain at the gas pump, but also it’s hitting our polyester prices, which is petroleum derived.
Prices are going up. Inflation is hitting here in Honduras, as well. It’s making people have more difficulties buying their necessities. It’s mostly the price of gas, which not a lot of our workers directly purchase, but also mostly related to foodstuff prices.
Most of our product inputs are directed toward the U.S. consumer, so I’m concerned about how their spending power is going to be affected. You know, if demand shrinks, then of course our end market may shrink as well, so we’ll see how that balance ends up at the end of the day and how people spend their money. I just hope that people have enough money to spend.
Raffaella Grasso, owner of Pino Grasso Embroidery in Milan
At the moment, everything seems to be slowing down more than before. Expenses are still very high, especially now with all the problems with gas and energy, and work is not enough to go on. At the moment, the problem is that all is very, very uncertain, and being so uncertain, everything’s slowed down. Parties and big events and all the happenings that will attract people with very luxury dresses are [less common].
Shelley Frost, CEO of the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, British Columbia
I can honestly say that business is a lot better than it was 18 months to two years ago. Our restrictions have lifted, our capacities have lifted. We can see people being willing to come back out and do group activities, which is absolutely awesome. At this point, what we’re looking for is stability. You know, we’re looking to see music tours and things like that come up more regularly. There’s still some people that are sitting on the fence — they’re touring the U.S., but then maybe not jumping up into Canada yet. That’s always a concern. We’re very much focused on rebuilding our team.
Inflation, in general, is something that we’re always keeping an eye on because we depend on people’s disposable income. So you want to come out, you want to do fun activities and you want to do things with your family and friends, but if you can’t pay for the basics, then you’ve got less room in your monthly budget to be able to do things like that.
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