As the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues, the economic ramifications of social distancing measures on businesses are manifold.
In an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19, the Ontario and Quebec provincial governments mandated all non-essential workplaces to shut down by midnight on March 24. The initial order was put in place for 14 days. On Friday, April 3, Premier Doug Ford announced further business closures.
So, what does the recent announcement 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.
“As part of our commitment to help sign companies weather these uncertain times, the Sign Association of Canada (SAC) has been working hard to ensure our members are empowered with the best resources and information available,” says SAC executive director, Karin S. Eaton. “We have been monitoring federal and provincial government news releases on a daily basis and relaying those updates to our members via newsletters, social media posts, as well as a new COVID-19 related page on our website.
“The business landscape is very volatile right now, and sign companies are navigating unprecedented times,” she notes. “Company owners have to sift through copious amounts of information and quickly make adjustments to their businesses to ensure their viability. Based on our conversations with members, some top-of-mind topics for sign companies currently are: understanding how the latest government relief programs apply to them and their employees, health and safety plans for their sign shops, maintaining cash flow, collecting accounts receivables, and new remote working policies, just to name a few.”
Eaton says SAC has been working together with regional chapters and the International Sign Association (ISA) to put together a webinar series that provides a platform for information exchange. Members can expect to see weekly webinars on pertinent topics and also have the ability to exchange ideas and information though the online medium.
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 well-being 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 SAC.”
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. He extends his gratitude to all healthcare professionals who are working tirelessly, as well as individuals who are volunteering to help.
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 priorities. First and foremost, please be assured we will take all appropriate measures in our day-to-day operations and continue to monitor all calls to action from our Canadian government.
As our manufacturing services provide essential labelling to pharmacy, healthcare, sanitation, and the food industry, Kemik Labels will remain open for business.”
To help combat the spread of COVID-19, 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, and 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.”