Big Canada Retailers Seek Assistance Too, Indigo CEO Says

(Bloomberg) -- Large Canadian retailers are working with mall landlords and the government to find a way to absorb the hit from coronavirus shutdowns, according to the country’s biggest book chain.

“We are working very closely with a group of five of the largest landlords in the country and with government to try and encourage a partnership approach with retailers, landlords and government to help us through this period,” Heather Reisman, chief executive officer of Indigo Books & Music Inc., said in an interview on BNN Bloomberg TV.

The Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program, announced last week, will forgive loans to commercial landlords who agree to reduce rent for small business tenants through April, May and June. But only firms with less than C$20 million ($14 million) in gross annual revenue can apply for the subsidy.

“I have been very focused on the majority of retailers which don’t fall under the initiative that was announced last week,” said Reisman. She said she has been in contact with retailers including Hudson’s Bay Co. and Aritzia Inc. and hopes to have more details on the plan next week.

The government is looking at the issue, a spokeswoman for Finance Minister Bill Morneau said in an email.

“We are aware that large businesses are facing challenges, we are considering what is the best way forward to help them bridge this period until we come to a better situation,” Maeva Proteau, said in an email.

Bigger retailers, who are significant contributors to city taxes, have been struggling with the shutdowns just as smaller stores have been, Reisman said.

The shutdowns were the right thing, but they’ve been a “massive financial burden,” she said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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