CSCMP's Supply Chain Quarterly
October 18, 2018
Forward Thinking

Canadian retailers say keys to success are exports and omnichannel

An eBay survey shows that small and medium-sized businesses see challenges in low margins, tough competition, and currency exchange rates.

Canadian retailers say the keys to improving returns are export sales and omnichannel fulfillment, according to survey results released Wednesday by e-commerce specialist eBay Inc.

eBay Canada's first SMB Optimism Index polled small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) on the challenges and keys to success for business in the coming year. Scored on a scale of 1 to 100, ranging from very pessimistic to very optimistic, Canadian retail SMBs averaged a 74 on the new index. However, those that export indexed notably higher, at 79 points, while non-exporting SMBs are significantly less optimistic, at 72 points.

SMBs that export reported an average of nearly 60 percent more in sales than those who don't, eBay found. They were also more likely than non-exporters to believe there are new market opportunities for them (70 percent versus 36 percent) and that technologies and innovations will positively impact their business (56 percent versus 41 percent).

The variety of sales channels used by a business was another contributing factor to SMB success, with omnichannel businesses scoring at 77, compared to 72 for single-channel enterprises. Further, omnichannel SMBs that use digital channels scored higher on the index (77) than those that don't (73).

"Given the relatively small size of the Canadian market, it stands to reason that business optimism in our country would be linked to exporting," Andrea Stairs, managing director for eBay Canada, said in a statement. "A critical success factor to scaling a Canadian business is the ability to tap into international demand. E-commerce has helped democratize international trade, and global online marketplaces like eBay are enabling SMBs to reach buyers beyond their borders and fulfill their potential."

The survey also revealed retailers' concerns about future business conditions, including low margins, tough domestic competition, and the purchasing value of the Canadian dollar. Government policies were also a worry, as more than half of SMBs surveyed (56 percent) agreed that Canada is a good country in which to run a business, but only 38 percent believed the Canadian government makes decisions that help their business.

Additional key findings from the eBay Canada SMB Optimism Index include:

  • More than half (54 percent) of SMBs surveyed felt optimistic about 2017, with one in five (19 percent) feeling very optimistic.
  • Quebec SMBs are overall the most optimistic, scoring 79 on the index; SMBs from the Atlantic are the least optimistic, with a score of 72.
  • Two in three SMBs that have been in business for less than five years (66 percent) were optimistic about their business prospects for 2017, compared to 47 percent of SMBs that have been operating for 20-plus years.
  • One in four SMBs (28 percent) expected to increase their number of sales channels in 2017. This number grew to 38 percent for exporting SMBs and dropped to 22 percent for non-exporting SMBs.
  • 16 percent of SMBs expected to increase their employee headcount in 2017. More exporting SMBs—26 percent—expect an increase, in contrast with just 11 percent of non-exporting SMBs.

The online survey was facilitated by MARU/Vision Critical Research & Consulting between August 3 and August 30, 2016. The sample consisted of 427 SMBs and 117 commercial eBay sellers from across Canada. To qualify for the survey, SMBs had to indicate a minimum revenue of $13,000 CAD annually and indicate that they don't have more than 99 employees. eBay sellers had to indicate a minimum revenue of $13,000 CAD annually, but no parameters were set for number of employees.

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