The story of Victoria’s downtown business community is being written by many as a tragedy.
The villains are construction, parking, high rent and dwindling foot traffic. Their victims are innocent businesses like Van Isle Jewelers that opened in the 1940s and recently announced plans to close for good.
“Nobody likes to see a business with a lot of history come to an end,” says Suzanne Bradbury, Board President of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, “but sometimes the cause isn’t just economics.”
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Small businesses, especially family-run enterprises that span decades, are extremely complex. Straddling multiple generations means not only tricky succession and shifts in management, but evolving consumer expectations and tastes as well.
Navigating these conditions like Van Isle did for so many years is a testament to entrepreneurship and why business owners are so deserving of respect, says Bradbury. But to imply the cause is rooted in Van Isle’s location isn’t accurate.
“Statistically,” she says, “the negative angle isn’t supported.”
About four years ago, the street-level retail-space vacancy rate in downtown Victoria was 12%, in 2015 it was 8.53%, last year 5.45%.
According to the City of Victoria’s Business Hub, the national unemployment rate for Canadian cities is 6.84%, Victoria’s is just 4.6%. Also, more than 1,200 new business licences were issued in 2016.
“Downtown Victoria is blessed with amazing entrepreneurs, retail concepts and food,” says Bradbury. “We’re seeing change, but things are moving in the right direction.”
For more information about the Downtown Victoria Business Association, visit: https://downtownvictoria.ca.