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Shopify rolls out new tools for online selling during COVID-19

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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.

Other tools

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

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Edited By Harry Miller

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Travel delays: Canadian airlines, airports top global list – CTV News

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MONTREAL –

Canadian airlines and airports claimed top spots in flight delays over the July long weekend, notching more than nearly any other around the world.

Air Canada ranked No. 1 in delays on Saturday and Sunday that affected 700-plus trips in total, or about two-thirds of its flights, according to tracking service FlightAware. It was more than 14 percentage points above the three carriers tied for second place.

Jazz Aviation – a Halifax-based company that provides regional service for Air Canada – and the lower-cost Air Canada Rouge both saw 53 per cent of flights delayed, putting them in the No. 2 spot alongside Greek regional airline Olympic Air.

On Saturday, WestJet and budget subsidiary Swoop placed third and fourth at 55 per cent.

On the airport front, Toronto’s Pearson claimed the No. 2 spot Sunday after 53 per cent of departures were held up, below only Guangzhou’s main airport in China. Pearson beat out Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and Frankfurt Airport in Germany.

Montreal’s airport placed sixth Sunday at 43 per cent of takeoffs delayed, on par with London’s Heathrow, according to FlightAware figures.

Air Canada said last week it will cut more than 15 per cent of its summer schedule, nearly 10,000 flights in July and August, as the country’s aviation network sags under an overwhelming travel resurgence.

Bookended by statutory holidays in Canada and the U.S., the weekend saw scenes of long lines and luggage labyrinths flood social media as airports across the globe grappled with the start of peak travel season following two years of pent-up demand.

Passenger flow at Canadian airports is already at 2019 levels during peak times, though closer to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes overall, experts say.

“This is going to be with us all summer,” said Helane Becker, an airline analyst for investment firm Cowen.

“Almost every airline encouraged people to retire early or take leaves. And those people that retired early maybe don’t want to come back to work,” she saidof airline employees.

“It’s hard to rebuild off those lows.”

Some pilots have not yet had their licences renewed, while positions with groundcrews and baggage handling remain unfilled – or quickly vacated – due to low wages and stressful work conditions, unions say.

Government agencies have been on a hiring spree for airport security and customs, with 900-plus new security screeners in place since April – though not all have clearance to work the scanners – according to the federal Transport Department.

“The airlines also used the pandemic to eliminate aircraft types from their fleet, and to ground and retire their oldest aircraft. It’s hard to bring these aircraft back once you park them without doing a lot of maintenance,” Becker added.

“As demand continues to surge, we’re basically looking at an inability for the airlines to easily accommodate it. And I think that’s true worldwide.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 4, 2022

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High inflation likely to stick around, consumers and businesses tell Bank of Canada in 2 surveys – CBC News

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Canadian businesses and consumers think the current era of high inflation will persist for longer than they’d previously hoped, according to two surveys from the Bank of Canada released Monday.

The two reports — known as the Business Outlook Survey and the Canadian Survey of Consumer Expectations — are the result of the central bank’s quarterly polling of Canadian businesses and consumers for their outlook on what’s happening on the ground in Canada’s economy.

  • Have a question or something to say? Email: ask@cbc.ca or join us live in the comments now.

While the findings differed in a few ways, the dominant theme of both was inflation and the impact it is having on buying and selling, hiring and firing.

The main takeaway from the business survey was that most businesses are seeing higher sales than they were seeing earlier in the pandemic, as economic activity is returning to some sort of normal. But demand continues to outstrip supply across almost all types of businesses, which is both a factor of and a contributor to the high inflation currently plaguing the economy.

Nearly two-thirds of businesses told the central bank they are seeing labour shortages. Nearly half — 43 per cent — say they are experiencing bottlenecks in their supply chains, and they’re taking longer to resolve than previously anticipated.

Businesses expect Canada’s inflation rate to still be more than five per cent a year from now, and still more than four per cent two years out. But five years from now, the survey suggests they expect the inflation rate to come back to within the range the central bank targets, between one and three per cent.

It was a similar story on the consumer side. Long-term inflation expectations increased from 3.2 per cent to four per cent, while short-term expectations increased to 6.8 per cent, up from 5.1 per cent last quarter.

“Consumers clearly took notice of the recent [consumer price index] releases and the high prices for food and gasoline,” CIBC economists Andrew Grantham and Karyne Charbonneau said of the data. “Uncertainty around the evolution of inflation has increased.”

Wages set to increase

On the employment front, on average, business owners expect their labour costs to increase by 5.8 per cent this year. 

That’s significantly higher than the two per cent wage increases that consumers told the bank they were expecting.

“Workers do not anticipate their wage gains will keep up with inflation,” the bank said, adding that those in the private sector think their wages will increase this year by more than those in the public sector will.

Economist Leslie Preston with TD Bank said the survey shows just how big a concern inflation is in the minds of ordinary consumers.

“This survey suggests consumer spending in real terms is likely to slow in the coming months as wages can’t keep up with inflation, and households are already being forced to economize,” she said, adding that expectations of high inflation to come “is a source of concern for low-income consumers in particular, who are adjusting to high inflation by cutting spending, postponing major purchases, looking for discounts more often, and buying more affordable items.”

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Canadian retailers struggle with online shipping costs as fuel surcharges soar – Global News

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Canadian retailers are struggling with higher shipping costs as couriers tack hefty fuel surcharges onto shipping rates to recoup record gas prices.

The additional charge is sending the cost of shipping goods within Canada higher, topping 40 per cent for some carriers.

For stores with high online return rates, such as apparel and footwear companies, the increased cost of shipping can be especially challenging.

So far, most companies are trying to absorb the extra domestic shipping charges, Retail Council of Canada spokeswoman Michelle Wasylyshen said.

Read more:

‘Every dollar counts’: Ontario gas tax cut brings some relief amid record prices

With inflation squeezing consumers and an ongoing battle for online dollars, she said retailers are reluctant to pass on costs.

“Retail is one of the most competitive industries in Canada, so raising minimum free shipping thresholds or adding surcharges to consumers directly is often done as a last resort,” she said.

“Retailers would prefer to find savings elsewhere.”

Higher domestic shipping costs come as international freight costs finally begin to stabilize.

Retailers have basically traded more reasonable international container freight rates for higher shipping within Canada, experts say.

“The idea of ever being in equilibrium around fuel prices or containers or what’s happening with worldwide supply chains is long gone,” Indigo Books & Music Inc. president Peter Ruis said in an interview.

Indigo, which saw online sales soar during the pandemic, is also avoiding raising prices despite skyrocketing shipping rates.

“We’re absolutely clear that especially at the moment with inflation and how customers are feeling … we will not want to be raising prices,” Ruis said.

Instead, the company is focused on developing the ability to ship from local stores, rather than from a centralized warehouse, to cut down on shipping costs.

“In October we launch our new website which will have a ship from store facility, which means we can use all of our stores as a warehouse for the online consumer,” Ruis said. “If someone’s in Halifax, we could choose to send them product from the Halifax store rather than from the central (distribution centre) in Toronto or Calgary.”

He added: “In a situation where the fuel charges are really difficult, we can mitigate that by sending stock locally.”


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Tips to conserve gas

Apparel retailers, which often see the highest return volumes among retailers, also appear determined to avoid passing fuel surcharges on.

Canadian underwear and apparel brand Knix Wear Inc., which does most of its sales online and offers free return shipping on most orders, said it doesn’t plan to change the qualifying threshold for free shipping.

“We know there are several external factors affecting shipping and costs but we do not want our customers to feel those impacts,” company spokeswoman Emily Scarlett said.

Shipping surcharges vary between different courier companies.

A FedEx spokesman said the shipping company manages fluctuations in fuel prices through “dynamic fuel surcharges.”

Fuel surcharges on shipments within Canada are subject to weekly adjustments based on a rounded average of the Canadian diesel retail price per litre, James Anderson said in an email.

Read more:

Nearly 7 in 10 drivers worry they can’t afford gas as prices soar, poll finds

For packages outside the country, the company bases its fuel surcharge on a rounded average of the U.S. Gulf Coast spot price for a gallon of kerosene-type jet fuel, he said.

The FedEx Express fuel surcharge is currently 41.50 per cent within Canada, and 26.50 per cent on international shipments.

DHL Express said it applies the fuel surcharge to offset fluctuations in fuel prices, which can impact the cost of transportation services _particularly for the company’s aviation fleet.

The fuel surcharge for international shipments is set at 25 per cent for July 2022, according to the company’s website.

Canada Post’s fuel surcharge on domestic services is currently 37 per cent, while its international parcel service is 21.75 per cent, according to its website.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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