As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, the economic ramifications of social distancing measures on businesses are manifold.
In an effort to further contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ontario and Quebec provincial governments have mandated the closure of all non-essential workplaces effective as of Tuesday, March 24, at 11.59 p.m. The order will remain in place for 14 days, with the possibility of extending it as the situation evolves.
Businesses that continue operations with employees working remotely, or through other contingency measures, are being given approximately 36 hours to prepare and adapt. Essential services may continue their operations to maintain supply chains and ensure the people have access to basic necessities.
But what does this mean for the sign industry?
In an interconnected global economy, the current situation has impacted Canadian sign businesses and their operations. It has resulted in restrictions on travel and public gatherings, as well as supply chain disruptions and market uncertainty.
Karin S. Eaton, the executive director of the Sign Association of Canada (SAC) says this has definitely been an ever-evolving situation for the sign industry.
“As per my conversations with the City of Toronto and through my own research, I would say our industry can be deemed as an essential service,” says Eaton. “We fit the definition under different parameters: 1. we are part of an essential services supply chain; 2. we are part of construction; and 3. we service the health industry and other institutions.
“That said, how the sign industry is perceived—whether it is an essential service or non-essential service—differs on a province-by-province case.”
On behalf of the Ontario Sign Association (OSA), SAC has written to Ontario Premier Doug Ford, requesting sign companies that are part of the essential services supply chain be allowed to operate and provide that essential service.
“I’ve heard from numerous association members they are currently printing COVID-19 related signage for hospitals, stores, and other institutions,” says Eaton.
People are the cornerstone of any successful business, and while many shops remain open to provide services to the health industry, they are taking all possible measures to ensure the health and safety of their staff.
“The safety of our staff members, their families, and friends during these difficult times is the most important thing,” says Matthew Lavery, project co-ordinator at Spectra Signs in Concord, Ont., and president of SAC’s Young Professionals Network (YPN).
Lavery points out even though the pandemic has left many worrying about their current jobs and businesses, the government is communicating effectively with the public and implementing the appropriate measures to help everyone through the crisis.
“At YPN, we have been showing our support to the sign industry on various social media platforms, says Lavery. “We make sure we provide our members with any COVID-19 related information as it becomes available from the Sign Association of Canada.”
Lavery says he is fortunate to be part of an industry where professionals across provinces are going above and beyond to help and uplift one another.
Kemik Labels Ltd., a family-owned and operated business specializing in custom label printing, located in Whitby, Ont., has provided a public response to the current situation.
A message on the company’s website reads: “The health, safety, and well-being of our employees and customers are top priority. First and foremost, please be assured we will take all appropriate measures in our day-to day work operations and continue to monitor all calls-to-action from our Canadian government.
As our manufacturing services provide essential labelling to pharmacy, health care, sanitation, and the food industry, Kemik Labels will remain open for business.”
To help combat the spread of the coronavirus, the shop has introduced some changes to the office environment, including minimizing access and restricting traffic through the premises, closing the office to public with only employees being allowed access through the front door, and providing clean and sanitized work spaces for staff.
Lee Murphy, co-vice-president of the l’Association Québécoise de l’Industrie de l’Enseigne (AQIE) board of directors, says he has been in constant contact with other sign companies throughout the country to discuss various issues surrounding the current reality, such as interaction with clients, safety within production facilities, working remotely, among many others.
“The general consensus is a portion of our industry services essential services, including hospitals, government facilities, and emergency messaging on digital message centres,” says Murphy. “The other portion of our industry that finds itself in a direct-to-private consumer model is at the moment heavily affected. With retail, restaurants, and hospitality sectors shutting down, it eliminates a large portion of the constant ongoing demand.”
Murphy says Richard Laliberté, co-vice-president of AQIE, has begun the process of communicating with certain provincial agencies to lobby and get some sign professionals back online to service the respective essential services clients.
“The sign industry has a longstanding history of seeing a wide scope of economies, environments, and trends; however, the current scenario has everyone across the board concerned,” states Murphy. “At the moment we’re staying positive, communicating often amongst members, and ensuring we get everyone’s input from mom and pop shops, national electric sign companies, and everyone in between.”