MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (August, 2022)

Pleased to join the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel on a very busy news week, alongside Mark Warner and John Northcott, talking inflation, Canada’s rising retirement numbers, and the state of streaming (with some big news from Disney Plus); you can watch our segment here.  A few thoughts about our discussion.

Canadians have been challenged with record inflation levels over the past several months, and it’s a popular topic of conversation on a number of fronts, including the all important question of when it will end.  Falling commodity prices in Canada and a slight easing of inflation in the US are positive developments, however, this does not mean that challenging times are over.  What tends to get lost in macro level conversations is what is occurring on the front lines, for both businesses and consumers.  A trip to the grocery store still brings some eye-opening prices, while business owners continue to face even more complex problems, including ongoing supply chain issues and labour shortages.  Both of these factors can limit the extent to which a business can operate, as well as develop and deliver goods and services.  These supply challenges tend to result in rising prices and trying to determine how much can be passed to consumers, while still generating demand (which takes us back to that consumer retail setting).  These practical issues are the realities of what must be managed on the front lines of business, and it is anything but easy.

Canada’s latest jobs numbers have revealed an interesting trend: rising retirement rates, especially by those aged 55 to 64 years.  What is important to keep in mind here is that this likely includes various groups, including those who have simply had enough and were particularly impacted by the challenges of COVID19 (such as healthcare workers and other frontline roles), business owners, and, perhaps, those who are able to live relatively comfortably (private pension plan members come to mind).  In the case of business owners, it is a reasonable assumption that many considered exiting their companies prior to the pandemic, but for whatever reason, did not do so.  A lot could be said about the typical lack of preparedness that business owners tend to encounter when attempting to sell their company, resulting in numerous closures during and after the pandemic (the empty business spaces in many communities are evidence).  Nonetheless, many may remain retired, while others might find the need or desire to embark on a new career before too long, even if only on a part time basis; time will tell how this situation will unfold.

And, finally, Disney Plus achieved an important milestone, with a slightly higher number of streaming subscribers than Netflix.  The pandemic certainly left many looking for things to do, and the streaming industry benefitted as a result.  It is important to remember that businesses and industries move in cycles, and significant growth does not continue forever.  Growing a company is very different than maintaining it, with business leaders having to find new and compelling ways to retain customers.  When customers migrate away, increasing the price to compensate is not a long term strategy, as subscribers will continue to evaluate the level of value that they derive.  Inflationary times also put financial choices into perspective, something that companies of all kinds need to recognize when making business decisions.

Thank you for watching, and enjoy what remains of these Summer days!


Jenifer Bartman
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