Extremely busy news week on the Canada Day edition of the CBC News Network Weekend Business Panel, alongside Mark Warner, Elmer Kim, and Hillary Johnstone, talking the lack of grocery competition in Canada, cyber attacks, and the latest economic numbers; you can watch our segment here.
Some thoughts on our discussion. Canadians might think they have a range of grocery shopping alternatives, but a closer look indicates that most familiar brands are owned by a few large players (think Loblaw, Sobeys, and Metro). The latest Competition Bureau report addresses this situation, with a number of important considerations for improvement, as well as some thoughts on the challenges of increasing the number of players. Shining a light on the lack of competition comes at a time when Canadians may well be feeling sour on this topic, with reports of record profits and executives seeking compensation package increases. In addition, consumers are undoubtedly already experiencing budgetary challenges, as inflation and interest rates have risen over the past year. Although mandatory unit prices and better transparency at the consumer level can be helpful, the challenges of attracting foreign players are of note; these may include addressing bilingual and metric packaging requirements, as well as identifying the right business model. Numerous retailers from other countries have found out the hard way that the Canadian marketplace has specific requirements (Target and Nordstrom come to mind) and it can also be difficult for smaller players to make an impact. What happens next in this respect is anyone’s guess; a closer eye from regulators/consumer protection agencies could be an opportunity for a meaningful step, especially when it comes to addressing any bad behavior.
Many established companies and organizations have been impacted by cyber attacks, with Indigo and Petro Canada being a couple of the latest. Businesses of all sizes need to consider the impact of this unpredictable and damaging situation, as the ramifications can be significant, including lengthy downtimes and expensive resolution paths. Business leaders should be asking themselves a number of questions in terms of their company’s level of preparedness, including:
- Has the company engaged a qualified information technology advisor to address this issue?
- Is a comprehensive security plan in place?
- Are staff members sufficiently trained?
- Has the company explored and obtained cyber event/business continuity insurance coverage?
- Does the company’s leadership understand what is covered by insurance and what the risks are?
- Is the company’s security plan reviewed on a regular basis?
- What business continuity plans are in place, in the event of a cyber attack, including in terms of customer communications?
The reality is that many companies are not well prepared in this regard, be it due to a lack of understanding of this complex issue or qualified advice, as well as the fast pace at which risks emerge.
In terms of recent economic news, modest growth over the past couple of months has Canada moving in the right direction. As indicated on previous Business Panels, progress will not happen in a straight line, but points in time should be taken as information, paying close attention to any trends that may become apparent. In my view, this is a good time for the Bank of Canada to pause on interest rate increases, so as to not “oversteer” on the road to recovery. Business leaders continue to deal with many front line challenges, and a balanced approach is better than upheaval (even when unintended).
A Happy Canada Day to all of our viewers, and thank you for watching!