MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (October 24, 2020)

Pleased to be joining the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel from my home studio, alongside Sherena Hussain, Dennis Mitchell, and Natasha Fatah, talking airline refund spats, small business week, and the woes of another Canadian retailer, Le Chateau.

Many Canadians have been waiting for months to receive refunds for flights they had booked and subsequently cancelled by the airline due to COVID19.  Westjet recently announced its decision to issue refunds for flights it had cancelled, drawing attention from its rival, Air Canada.  Without going into the details around how the refund process will work, it seems to me that the focus should be on the customers who have been out of pocket what could be a significant amount of money for months.  It’s true that the airline and travel industries have been met with massive declines in business; a cause for concern in terms of future viability.  Regardless, it doesn’t seem right that customers be the ones to effectively finance this problem by not receiving a refund for something that they could not ultimately realize, through no fault of their own.

Small Business Week is generally a good time to reflect on the importance of the backbone of the Canadian economy; doing so has taken a different slant in 2020.  Small businesses have had to work extra hard to combat the impact of COVID19, be it in terms of financial challenges, keeping staff and customers safe, and finding new ways to deliver products and services.  Times of challenge can bring opportunity, such as better utilization of technology, an improved online presence, and the potential to access new markets.  Critical to this is the role of qualified advisors, who bring valuable perspective and an objective viewpoint, to help business leaders avoid pitfalls that they might not recognize until it’s too late.  Remember that business leaders have a depth of knowledge, as experts of their own companies, while advisors bring a breadth of knowledge, the experience of many situations; these perspectives are related, but they are not the same.

And finally, this week saw the demise of another Canadian retailer; this time, Le Chateau.  Seeking creditor protection and advisory assistance, we will have to stay tuned to see if this brand will find a way to continue into the future in some manner.  Regardless, I remember the years when Le Chateau was a “go to” stop on any trip to the mall, with lots of interest in the party and event section; another reminder of how much COVID19 has changed our lives.  The reality is, we don’t go very far these days, do we?  This makes life a challenge for retailers, airlines, travel, and hospitality companies; at least we have technology to stay connected.

Thanks for watching and for reaching out with your comments on these stories; it is a privilege to bring the business news to you.  See you again soon.

 

MEDIA: CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel (November, 2018)

Always enjoy my time on the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, including this past Saturday, alongside Elmer Kim and John Northcott.  Here’s the topics we discussed, from the week that was in business:

  • Bombardier’s layoffs and selloffs:  The company has struggled in recent years and found itself in the news again this week; announcing 5,000 layoffs and a couple of selloffs as part of ongoing transition efforts.  With Canadian taxpayers having funded the company to the tune of over $1 billion, can any positive developments be expected?
  • Bowring and Bombay File for Creditor Protection:  Disruption in the retail space continues, this time, revisiting two longstanding Canadian brands.  Do they have a future?
  • Amazon’s Toy Catalogue:  Reminiscent of years past, Amazon has its own printed toy catalogue for the Holiday season; what’s behind this move?

Here’s a few thoughts:

Transition is never easy (or quick), but Canadian taxpayers have probably heard more than their share of less than stellar news about Bombardier.  The reality is that this large and diverse company didn’t find itself off the rails (pun intended) overnight, and unwinding a bad situation can take far more time, angst, and money than most would expect.  As is the case with any company, it’s critical to understand the core business, one where success can be generated on a competitive and financially favourable basis.  As manufacturing technology evolves, companies are challenged to be increasingly efficient and that often involves shedding or re-positioning jobs.  If Bombardier is to find success, it must have a well-designed plan that focuses in the right product and service areas in an efficient and competitive manner; time will tell if this can be achieved, or if the outcome will be of a more somber nature.

In an intensely competitive retail marketplace that has evolved significantly, many companies have found themselves left behind; Bowring and Bombay are the latest, having faced similar circumstances only a few years ago.  Retailers must understand their target market well and take the necessary steps to connect and engage with them in an effective manner.  These companies have not kept up with the rapid pace of evolution, which might spell the end for these Canadian brands.  Retrenching to fewer stores or trying to play online “catch up” with a customer that might not be receptive could be the age old story of finding and implementing a new strategy too late.

And, finally, Amazon’s printed toy catalogue is all about the memories and nostalgia of many childhoods, as well as reaching out to those who shop online less frequently.  Using an approach that makes online engagement easy just might be the most timely “pull” strategy we’ve seen in a while; kids just need to put down their tablets and iPhones long enough to flip through the pages!

Thanks for watching and see you again soon, CBC!