Canadian Rental Service

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Editorial: Sideswiped

The pandemic has hit 2020 like a driver running a red light.


There we were, driving along at a responsible pace, signaling our turns and obeying the traffic signals when…WHAM!

As of this writing, the federal government is reporting 1,371 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across the country, including 18 deaths. There are cases in every province and the Northwest Territories, with only the Yukon and Nunavut spared so far. By the time you read this, barring something quite unforeseen, those numbers will seem very small. Projections call for thousands of deaths across Canada before all there’s a vaccine. Statistically, each of us is likely to have someone we know die from the coronavirus. It’s serious, and we all bear a significant responsibility to do what we can to slow the spread so that people who do get seriously ill have access to the medical care they need.

You’ve been called on to make some very difficult and scary choices about whether to keep your showrooms open, whether to send drivers to jobsites and who to keep on as business slows or stops. The American Rental Association is doing rolling surveys of its members to record the impact of the pandemic, and is reporting significant revenue losses already. Not surprisingly, the party and event rental sector is being hit the hardest with all the cancellations and postponements. Over 65 per cent of those members are reporting revenue losses in excess of 40 per cent. The construction/tool sector impact is much milder, with most reporting no losses or losses below 15 per cent. Again, I fear these numbers will seem low by the time you read this, but I hope I’m wrong.

What we here at Canadian Rental Service can do for you and your business at this time is what we always try to do: get you the information you need. The most pressing need, in my opinion, is for you to know how to protect yourselves, your customers and your workers from infection and how to deal with the financial turmoil that threatens your business. To that end, I’ve recorded two special Counter Talks podcasts. One is a discussion with Suzanne Bernier, a crisis consultant and pandemic response expert who helped craft the Ontario worker’s compensation board’s pandemic response plan for SARS. The other is with Bonnie Koabel, a financial consultant specializing in accessing government funds for businesses. Koabel points us to several federal programs that will be assisting businesses to access grants, credit and debt relief, and has several good tips for you and your workers to get some financial breathing space. If there’s other information we can be providing, or information you have to share, please don’t hestitate to reach out to me at pflannery@annexbusinessmedia.com.

Another thing we can do here is to help us learn from this experience. Regular contributor, Andrew Snook, will be contacting rental stores across the country in the coming weeks to collect stories of how they dealt with the pandemic and what the impact was to operations. We want to hear from as many of you as possible so we can put together a special issue chronicling the experience of our industry through this remarkable time. If you have a story for Andrew, please let me know. I think this pandemic is going to change us in many ways, and maybe, in some cases, forever.