Entrepreneurs who are struggling to keep their businesses alive amid the demands of COVID-19 or feel underserved by the country’s financial institutions are about to get a helping hand from Shopify Inc.
To help entrepreneurs “futureproof” their companies, the Ottawa-based e-commerce giant said Wednesday that it is launching a handful of business management and sales tools, including giving its merchants the ability to let customers “buy now, pay later” and tip.
Craig Miller, Shopify’s chief product officer, said some of the new features and products were in the works long before the pandemic, but others were dreamed up or accelerated as entrepreneurs scrambled to pivot their businesses to online models while experiencing lost income, furloughs and layoffs.
“It almost became 2030 overnight,” he told The Canadian Press. “Some of the things we were anticipating as being important over the next coming years became super important basically overnight, so we’ve been trying to equip our merchants as much as possible to deal with this kind of situation.”
Shopify’s launches were shared at Reunite, a virtual event the company put on in lieu of its annual Unite conference, where the company’s top executives usually unveil major product announcements. Unite, which was due to be held in Toronto in May, was cancelled in March because of COVID-19.
The pandemic has proved to be a boon for Shopify, which passed Royal Bank of Canada to become the most valuable, publicly-traded company in Canada in May.
Its stock now regularly reaches more than $1,000 in trading and the company boasts that more than one million businesses — Shopify calls them merchants — now use its offerings.
“It sounds a little weird at first glance, but we’re seeing some grocery stores and restaurants use Shopify,” said Miller.
He’s also noticed the number of local orders Shopify merchants received each day on average spiked by 176 per in the six weeks leading up to April 24, just as physical distancing and work-from-home orders were put in place in several countries.
Shopify believes companies may see an additional boost from its Wednesday announcements, revealing merchants will be able to collect tips and set fees, minimum order prices and distance radiuses for deliveries.
The company began allowing merchants to sell gift cards in recent weeks and teamed up with Facebook Inc. on Tuesday to unveil a new and free tool helping companies create a customized online storefront for Facebook and Instagram.
Later in the year, those in the U.S. will be able to offer a “buy now, pay later” and get access to Shopify Balance, a business account that promises a clear view of cash flow and an ability to pay bills and track expenses. It will come with a “balance card” with cashback, discounts on shipping and marketing and no monthly fees or minimum balances. Merchants can use it to make purchases or withdraw from ATMs.
Shopify did not say when the service will be available to Canadian merchants.
Balance is targeted at the two in five merchants that Shopify has discovered are using their personal bank accounts and cards for business and others who find banking products aren’t designed to meet the needs of or flexibility required by entrepreneurs.
“It becomes very tricky for them to separate their business from their own personal bank accounts and that causes all sorts of problems, for example, when they need to get financing… and in some cases, it affects their credit score,” said Miller.
Despite Shopify partnering with Facebook, it’s still positioning itself to take on other tech giants, including Amazon.com Inc.
Shopify’s network of fulfilment centres, which launched last year to help U.S. merchants lower shipping costs and ensure timely deliveries, has been going head-to-head with the Seattle-based behemoth.
Shopify’s network has just begun accepting merchant applications after completing an early access stage.
“The response was almost bigger than anticipated,” Miller said. “We’ve just gotten bombarded with merchants that want to use it.”
Source – CBC.ca
Edited By Harry Miller
First-quarter GDP worst showing since 2009: StatCan – CTV News
Canada’s economy had its worst quarterly showing since 2009 through the first three months of 2020 owing to COVID-19, Statistics Canada said Friday, warning an even steeper drop may be coming.
Gross domestic product fell at an annualized rate of 8.2 per cent in the first quarter, including a 7.2-per-cent drop in March as restrictions by public health officials began rolling out, including school closures, border shutdowns and travel restrictions.
Preliminary information indicates an 11 per cent drop in GDP for April, but the statistics agency said that figure is likely to be revised as more information becomes available.
Similarly, the agency said first-quarter figures are likely to have larger than usual revisions in subsequent data releases. Some numbers had to be estimated because they were not available.
Early indications are that March and April could end up as the largest consecutive monthly declines on record.
The drastic drop in gross domestic product likely doesn’t fully reflect the experience of every Canadian, said BMO chief economist Douglas Porter, noting GDP is just one barometer of how the pandemic has affected the domestic economy.
“You don’t get the entire picture just from GDP and even from employment (figures) because policy-makers have stepped up with such unusual and aggressive actions that a lot of the common metrics just don’t apply 100 per cent in this episode,” Porter said in an interview.
The federal response to date totals about $152 billion in direct spending. The parliamentary budget officer has said that could leave the deficit at $260 billion, with a national debt north of $950 billion.
A preliminary estimate released by the Finance Department on Friday showed deficit of $21.8 billion for the fiscal year that closed in March. The figure will still be subject to revisions, which may land it closer to the government’s last estimate of $26.6 billion.
The monthly fiscal monitor also showed the debt pushed past $794.4 billion.
Many of the items adding to this year’s deficit are expected to show up in supplementary spending estimates. The documents will be scrutinized for four hours in mid-June based on the motion the adopted this week to put the Commons on extended hiatus until late September.
Budget officer Yves Giroux told a Commons committee on Friday that would provide parliamentarians little opportunity to properly scrutinize tens of billions, if not over $100 billion in proposed spending.
“It comes up as a very expensive four hours potentially for Canadian taxpayers,” he said. “The amount of scrutiny for this unprecedented spending will also be unprecedented, but for the wrong reasons.”
The latest federal spending figures showed $41.44 billion has been paid to 8.29 million people through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, and $7.9 billion in wage subsidies to 181,883 companies.
MPs on the Commons finance committee were told Thursday the cost of the wage susbidy program is somewhat less than the original $73-billion estimate. Consultations are underway to understand why companies aren’t accessing the program that covers 75 per cent of salaries, subject to a cap of $847 per week, per employee.
Asked about the lopsided spending, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the subsidy will become “more and more important” as restrictions ease and businesses reopen. He also said the CERB has helped “support millions of Canadians who need help paying for groceries, paying their rent.”
Statistics Canada said household spending, a backbone of the Canadian economy, was down 2.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the steepest quarterly drop ever recorded.
The drop in household spending was broad, affecting goods like new cars and clothing, and services for food as bars and restaurants in particular were ordered closed. Instead, spending on going out became money spent staying in, Statistics Canada said, noting increases in household food and alcohol by 7.2 per cent and six per cent, respectively.
As a result of less spending overall, the savings rate rose for the quarter to 6.1 per cent from the 3.6 per cent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2019 with higher rates recorded at higher income levels.
The savings built up during the shutdown period could translate into extra spending as restrictions ease, said CIBC senior economist Royce Mendes in a note.
TD senior economist Brian DePratto wrote in a note that it isn’t unreasonable to think a modest recovery may already be forming.
“The key question is what kind of recovery? Given the significant hits to incomes and longer-lasting impacts on some industries, a marathon appears more likely than a sprint.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2020.
Alberta partners with fast-food restaurants to distribute 4 non-medical masks to every resident – Globalnews.ca
The Alberta government will provide every resident with four non-medical face masks, as the province continues its phased approach to relaunch the economy.
Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced Friday morning that the government has partnered with A&W, McDonald’s Canada and Tim Hortons to distribute the masks at the restaurants’ drive-thru locations.
The masks will be free of charge.
“Alberta is the first and so far, as far as I know, the only province that has decided to distribute masks province-wide,” Shandro said. “This program will help Albertans get back to work and enjoy everyday activities safely.”
While mask use is not mandatory, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health has recommended Albertans wear a non-medical mask when two metres of physical distance cannot be maintained, such as on public transit.
A total of about 20 million non-medical masks will be distributed at a cost of around $20 million. Shandro said partnering with the fast-food restaurants will cut down on the distribution cost to government, which is around $350,000.
“These three partners are doing it without added expense to the Alberta taxpayer,” Shandro said.
The drive-thru pickup also provides safe physical distancing for Albertans, as people will be able to stay in their vehicles.
Shandro said the three restaurant companies have about 600 drive-thru locations in the province, and 95 per cent of Albertans live within 10 kilometres of one of these locations.
The province is working on a plan to ensure distribution of masks is possible to the remaining five per cent of the population, Shandro said.
“Even if you don’t have an A&W, a McDonald’s or a Tim Hortons in your community, you will be able to get your four masks,” he said.
The government’s distribution cost is “for us to be able to pay for the gap distribution for the other five per cent of folks who may not be able to get to a drive-thru,” according to Shandro.
Distribution will be done on the honour system.
“We’re not asking for folks to bring in their health-care card and get a punch to show that they’re already picked up,” Shandro said.
“This is on the honour system, but Albertans are responsible and they’ve shown us that. Throughout the response to this pandemic, Albertans have shown us that they are responsible.
“Obviously there may be some folks who will be unable to make their way to a drive-thru — I’m thinking about one of my parents in particular — and whether it’s me or one of my siblings who has to go pick up for my parents, that’s going to be the case. And the folks at the 600 stores, the employees, are going to just have to trust Albertans and we’re going to have to trust Albertans.”
Alberta’s Dr. Hinshaw lays out best practices for wearing face masks to slow COVID-19 spread
The health minister stressed the three-layered, non-medical face masks are not part of the provincial supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) meant for health-care workers and first responders.
The masks are single-use, Shandro said.
“They are not medical grade masks. We are not taking away any of the PPE from our front lines,” Shandro said.
In a media release from the province, all three restaurants expressed their pleasure to be part of the mask program.
“A&W is very pleased to support the government of Alberta with this great initiative. Our restaurants across the province have been quick to step up and help organize the distribution of masks, and are looking forward to welcoming Albertans at our drive-thrus,” A&W Canada president and CEO Susan Senecal said.
“McDonald’s Canada, together with our franchisees, have been committed to helping our communities throughout this pandemic. We welcome this opportunity to use our drive-thru operations to assist the Alberta government, and do the right thing for Albertans when they need us most,” said Jeff Kroll with McDonald’s Canada.
“Throughout the pandemic, the 1,500 Tim Hortons owners across Canada have been eagerly supporting their local communities and stepping up to answer calls for assistance. When we were asked by the Alberta government to help distribute masks through our drive-thrus we did not hesitate. We’re proud to have been asked to participate in this important program and do our part to help Alberta move forward on its relaunch strategy,” Tim Hortons COO Mike Hancock said.
Tanya Doucette, a Tim Hortons owner who runs eight locations across central Alberta, said the province has asked that they not hand out the mask bags inside the restaurant, just through the drive-thru.
“They want to ensure safe social distancing, and I think because they’re worried people might show up in large numbers and queues in person, that could create risk,” Doucette said.
“We have acrylic shields in our drive-thrus and our team members are wearing non-medical grade masks, so this is a safe distance option to hand out the masks.”
She said people must be in a vehicle, they cannot walk through the drive-thru.
“What you can do if you don’t have a vehicle or you don’t have access to a vehicle, you can ask a friend or family member to pick up your allotment of masks for you through a drive-thru location at Tim Hortons,” she said.
Representatives from McDonald’s and A&W also say that masks will only be handed out through the drive-thru, and people must be in a vehicle.
The masks have arrived and will be ready for distribution early next month. Further details of the rollout will be released in the coming days.
Shandro encouraged Albertans to source their own non-medical masks through local businesses or make their own at home.
“This is not meant to be able to provide Albertans with an unlimited supply.”
More information on how to safely put on and take off a non-medical face mask can be found on the government’s website.
Hinshaw clarifies that N95 masks are not required for ‘typical care to a patient’
Shandro said that on Friday morning, Alberta surpassed the 250,000 mark when it comes to how many COVID-19 tests have been performed in the province. He said about 220,000 unique Albertans have been tested, as some people have been tested twice.
On Thursday, Alberta Health reported 29 new cases of COVID-19 in Alberta and two additional deaths related to the disease.
There were 652 active cases of COVID-19 in Alberta on Thursday afternoon.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
Laurentian Bank slashes dividend by 40 per cent as profits tumble – The Globe and Mail
Laurentian Bank of Canada slashed its dividend by 40 per cent on Friday following a sharp drop in profit, becoming the first large Canadian bank to cut its dividend payout in nearly 30 years.
The Montreal-based bank reported a 79-per-cent drop in profit for the three months ended April 30, with net income falling to $8.9-million from $43.3-million in the same quarter last year. This was largely due to a spike in provisions for potential loan losses tied to weakening economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Laurentian responded by cutting its dividend to 40 cents a share, down from 67 cents. This is the first time a large Canadian bank has cut back dividend payouts since National Bank of Canada did so in 1992, according to data from Refinitiv.
“Although we believe that current earnings are not reflective of the future earnings power of the organization, we have reduced the dividend to $0.40 per share which improves operational flexibility until we reap the anticipated benefits of our strategic plan,” chief executive François Desjardins said in a press release.
Laurentian shares fell more than 9 per cent in trading Friday morning.
The bank’s earnings cap off a week of dismal results from Canadian banks, which saw profits eviscerated by a rise in loan loss provisions due to expectations of future defaults and weakening credit. Laurentian, a regional bank which focuses primarily on Quebec, managed to keep revenues flat on a year-over-year basis. But higher provisions slammed the bottom line.
Laurentian recorded $54.9-million in provisions for credit losses, compared to $9.2-million a year ago. Gross impaired loans, which are loans that the bank does not expect to be paid back in full, rose to $235-million, up 25.8 per cent year-over-year. The biggest increase in loan impairment came from the bank’s commercial loan book, where gross impaired loans rose 42 per cent year-over-year.
The results were worse than analysts had anticipated. The bank reported an adjusted earnings per share of $0.20, well below the $0.38 average that analysts had expected, according to Refinitiv data.
In a note to clients, National Bank analyst Gabriel Dechaine noted that the miss was driven by a combination of higher than expected provisions for credit losses and elevated expenses, which were partially offset by a lower-than-forecast tax rate.
“While necessary, a 40 per cent dividend cut may be viewed as insufficient, as pro forma payout ratios are still elevated,” Mr. Dechaine wrote.
The bank’s capital position deteriorated slightly in the quarter, with the closely watched common equity tier 1 ratio falling to 8.8 per cent from 9 per cent.
“This level of capital provides the Bank with the flexibility to pursue organic growth, as well as to continue to invest in the implementation of our core banking system,” the bank said in a news release.
However it added that it expects “regulatory capital ratios will remain below the level observed over the recent quarters.”
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