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Two-bedroom rent still falling
Okanagan Edge Staff - Dec 04, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

The average asking price for two-bedroom rent in Central Okanagan dropped for the fourth straight month in November.

The mark decreased $35 from October to $2,142 in November. The average asking price got as high as $2,411 in July but has fallen each month since. The average asking price was based on 101 listings from Castanet’s classifieds page.

The one-bedroom average asking price in Central Okanagan also fell in November, but only by $11 to $1,586. It was based on 82 listings. The one-bedroom rent figure has gone up and down each month since February.

Hyper Hippo leads charge
Okanagan Edge Staff - Dec 04, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed
Hyper Hippo’s Emma Bullen, far right, with all BC Export Awards winners.

Kelowna’s Hyper Hippo has been honoured for its ability to engage global audiences.

The mobile gaming company received a BC Export Award in the digital media and entertainment category last month in Vancouver. It beat out Aequilibrium Software and Smoking Gun Interactive for the honour.

“We are inspired by this award to continue our mission of creating digital entertainment that delivers moments of joy to global audiences,” Hyper Hippo CEO Sam Fisher said in a press release.

“Our journey is all about creating entertainment that delights and connects our audience and we extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has supported and shared in this vision along the way.”

Hyper Hippo’s new global markets director Emma Bullen thanked government ministers for facilitating its global success.

“We are deeply honored to be recognized as a leader in digital exports within British Columbia,” Bullen said. “This award represents the collaboration and creativity of our dedicated team, as well as the substantial input from our advisors and partners.”

Glacier Media’s Business in Vancouver conducts the BC Export Awards each year, celebrating the contributions exporters have made to both the provincial and national economy.

Walmart getting big upgrade
Tim Petruk - Dec 04, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: Glacier

The Kamloops Walmart Supercentre is in line for major upgrades aimed at modernizing the store and improving the retail experience for shoppers.

Walmart Canada announced plans Friday to invest nearly $1 billion this fiscal year on a slew of modernization projects.

According to the company, the Kamloops store is one of three in Canada slated to undergo “significant transformations” in the next 12 months.

“Walmart Canada has an ambition to be the most trusted retailer for Canadians,” company CEO Gonzalo Gebara said in a statement.

“This is what we’ve worked toward for the last 30 years and it’s why we continue to invest, including nearly $1 billion this year, to build an even more efficient, consistent and reliable omni-channel experience for Canadians.”

According to the company, the Kamloops Walmart is one of 55 across Canada chosen to undergo an “extensive refurbishment.” Of those, two stores in Quebec and Kamloops are expected to see the most work done.

An additional 20 stores will undergo significant modernization updating including expanded produce departments.

There is no word yet when the work will begin. The Hillside Drive store last underwent a significant renovation in 2012, when work began on a 14,000-square-foot addition to add a full grocery department and turn it into a Walmart Supercentre outlet.

The work announced Friday is part of a five-year plan Walmart Canada unveiled in July of 2020 to overhaul store infrastructure and the customer experience with $3.5 billion in improvements.

— with files from The Canadian Press

Gas prices peeve Princeton
Casey Richardson - Dec 04, 2023 - Biz Releases

Princeton’s Mayor penned an open letter to the four major holders of gas stations in his community this week, expressing his frustration at the area having consistently higher gas prices.

Spencer Coyne wrote to Esso, Chevron, Husky and Petro Canada last week, demanding answers as to why his municipality has been stuck paying more.

Coyne said he’s been seeing a high of between 10 to 20 cents for local stations compared to other municipalities since he was first elected.

“The community has brought it up over and over again, and lately because prices have been dropping around us,” he said. “It’s starting to hurt people’s pocketbooks. And it’s been like this for a long time. It’s just now the disparity between our prices, and nobody else’s prices are getting so vast that it’s almost worth driving out of town just to get gas.”

When Castanet met with Coyne last week, gas prices in Princeton were listed at 178.9.

In comparison, gas prices in Penticton sit between 162 to 165, while Kelowna sits between 155 to 159, Kamloops is averaging 158 to 162, and Vancouver is between 165 and 169.

“We’ve been higher than just about every other location, especially in the Okanagan,” Coyne said. “And now we’re we’re even more than the Lower Mainland, which has a transit tax of almost 20 cents.”

The mayor is also worried that the higher prices will deter holiday travellers from taking Highway 3 between the Okanagan and the Lower Mainland, instead opting for the Coquihalla.

“Our businesses depend on that highway traffic for that extra income,” he said. “And if our prices are higher, nobody’s going to come this way.”

Coyne said he’s been told the cost disparity is due to trucking costs.

“Which I don’t buy,” he said. “Osoyoos gets their gas from the same place as Princeton and that’s Kamloops, and so does Rock Creek. And you’re telling me that they can come in cheaper than we can?”

Princeton will soon have an independent gas station open, which Coyne said he hopes will make the change.

“They have a monopoly over the fuel system, and they’re using that to their advantage right now,” he said. “At some point, we’re going to have to decide on how we’re going to do this if they’re not going to respond to us. How are we going to show them that we’re serious about this?”

Cart makes shopping easier
Darren Handschuh - Dec 04, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: Butcher Boys

Butcher Boys is making shopping with people who have physical challenges a lot easier.

The Vernon grocery store has teamed up with Vernon Elks Lodge to bring in Caroline’s Cart, a shopping cart available to help seniors or those with any special or mobility needs.

The cart features a seat large enough for an adult to sit on and includes a five-point harness with front and rear brakes, plus room for merchandise.

Caroline’s Cart was created for special needs individuals and provides caregivers a viable option to transport a special needs individual through a store while shopping, without the task of having to manoeuvre a wheelchair and a traditional shopping cart at the same time.

According to the Caroline’s Cart website, the cart is named after Caroline, the special needs daughter of Drew Ann and David Long.

Drew Ann Long saw the need for Caroline’s Cart after realizing her daughter would outgrow a typical shopping cart.

Knowing what was needed, she founded Parent Solution Group, LLC, designed the cart, applied for a patent, and enlisted the services of legal and business professionals to help her bring the cart to market.

The Elks club hopes to bring more of the carts to local stores.

Neave earns lifetime honour
Okanagan Edge Staff - Dec 01, 2023 - People in Business

Photo: Contributed

The man behind a successful Kelowna tourism business has been honoured by his peers.

Roland Neave, the founder of Wells Gray Tours, received the Bob Everidge Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Tour Association two weeks ago in Shreveport, La.

Neave received the award for his commitment to the travel and tourism industry that is rooted in passion for the environment.

His business, after all, got started when he participated in an environmental protest at Wells Gray Park in 1972. Neave was against the construction of seven dams in Wells Gray, so he starting running bus tours to the park and “showing people its many wonders,” according to a press release. It created such an outcry that the dams were cancelled.

And a business was born. Neave started running tours to other parts of the world after graduating from university in 1975, and now Wells Gray Tours runs trips from B.C. to all seven continents.

Neave has given plenty of time to the NTA throughout his career as well, serving as a panelist for seminars, contributing to the Canadian members committee, and orchestrating experiences during the organization’s events, including the 2007 Spring Meet held in Kelowna.

Unemployment rate jumps 1%
Okanagan Edge Staff - Dec 01, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: The Canadian Press

After several months of historically low figures, Kelowna’s unemployment rate shot up in November to a more normal number.

The jobless rate jumped a whole percentage point, according to Statistics Canada, from 2.9% in October to 3.9% last month. The number of people who were able to work fell by 3,600 people last month, but the total number of those who were actually working dropped by 4,500.

Kelowna’s unemployment mark hit 2.5% in September, which was the lowest it had ever been since the statistic started being tracked in 2006.

The 3.9% tally was still the fourth lowest mark among Canada’s 37 metropolitan areas in November.

Meanwhile, the Thompson Okanagan unemployment rate dropped to 3.1% last month, which is the lowest it has been over the last two years.

Overall, Canada’s unemployment rate continued to trend higher as the Bank of Canada’s steep interest rate hikes weighed down the economy and left workers with fewer options in the job market. The national jobless rate rose to 5.8% in November, and the economy added a modest 25,000 jobs, slightly surpassing forecasters’ expectations but trailing the pace of population growth.

Coupled with Thursday’s weak GDP numbers, the job report reinforces economists’ belief that the Bank of Canada will continue to hold its key interest rate steady at its decision meeting next week.

Manufacturing and construction had the largest gains in employment, while the most jobs were shed in wholesale and retail trade as well as finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing.

The unemployment rate was 5.7% in October.

After the labour market experienced a strong bounceback from the pandemic, the unemployment rate has been on an upward trend since April as the Canadian economy shows clearer signs of weakness.

Real gross domestic product, which measures the size of the economy, has been struggling to consistently grow over the last year. The most recent GDP report showed the economy shrank 1.1% on an annualized basis in the third quarter.

“Partially echoing yesterday’s GDP report, Canada’s economy is hanging in, but the clear softening in the labour market is consistent with continued soft growth,” Benjamin Reitzes, BMO’s managing director of Canadian rates and macro strategist, wrote in a client note.

“While the headline (employment) increase was better than expected, the ongoing increase in the unemployment rate is the bigger story, and likely better reflects the state of the economy.”

Canada’s unemployment rate is now hovering around pre-pandemic levels but is expected to continue rising as higher borrowing rates weigh on businesses.

— with files from The Canadian Press

MP fights for small businesses
Chelsea Powrie - Dec 01, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

South Okanagan-West Kootenay MP Richard Cannings is calling for more help for local businesses ahead of a looming Canada Emergency Business Account loan repayment deadline.

Cannings stood in the House of Commons and called the lack of action on extending that deadline a “big disappointment.”

“CEBA loans saved hundreds of thousands of businesses across Canada and millions of jobs during the pandemic, but recovery has been slow, particularly in sectors such as tourism,” Cannings said. “The deadline to repay CEBA loans was extended from the end of 2022 to the end of 2023, but there continue to be calls to extend it once more, to the end of 2024.”

Premiers from around the country have been extremely vocal in recent weeks, asking the federal government for just such an extension. The deadline was eventually moved, but only by 18 days, from the end of December to Jan 18, 2024.

In Cannings’ opinion, that is nowhere near enough and will only provide a window for businesses to secure additional loans if they want to stay afloat, adding to already dire debt.

“I recently met with Anette and Jörg in my riding,” Cannings said, referring to the Engels, who own Maple Leaf Spirits in Penticton, one of the oldest craft distilleries around.

“As many of the small businesses in my riding do, they depend on the tourism industry to be successful, so the CEBA loan program literally kept their business alive during the pandemic. They were on schedule to pay back their CEBA loan until this summer, when wildfires in the Interior of B.C. drove the provincial government to close the region to tourism. It was not just that visitors did not want to come to a region that was on fire; they were literally told they could not come. August, one of the two big months for tourism-related business, was a complete writeoff.”

Cannings also shared that he heard from a family-owned retail business in Osoyoos that “did not even get to the break-even point this year,” and who will not be able to pay back the CEBA loan or buy new stock for the coming year.

Then there is the wine industry, which had a rough harvest year in the Okanagan Valley after an early, hard frost the previous year. They were also hard hit by the tourism ban in August.

“I had dinner last week with wine industry leaders and learned that many wineries are considering closing or selling right now, because they cannot make ends meet. Some have already closed,” Cannings said, also noting a recent report from the B.C. Craft Brewers Guild that 15% of their members “face bankruptcy” if the CEBA loan repayment period is not extended.

“I knew there would be a financial cost for the government to carry $40 billion in loans for another year … However, even if only 10 per cent of businesses go under, we would lose over $4 billion in unpaid loans. More importantly, we would lose tens of thousands of businesses and hundreds of thousands of jobs across this country … Small businesses across Canada are in crisis. We need to support them by extending the CEBA loan repayment deadline. It is not too late.”

Dealership giving away SUV
Chelsey Mutter - Dec 01, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: Vernon Hyundai

One deserving person will drive home with a new-to-them vehicle this holiday season.

Vernon Hyundai is giving away an SUV to a community member in need in its Capturing Community Kindness campaign.

“We know this time of year can be hard on people and even harder without a reliable vehicle to get around,” according to a post on the dealership Facebook page.

“We are trying to spread a little joy this holiday season by giving away this 2010 Hyundai Santa Fe AWD to someone who truly needs it.”

Assistant general manager Mike Weaver said the vehicle was donated to give away from someone in the community.

“We ran it to the shop, we made sure it’s all mechanically well (and) did the service on it. It’s in great shape, (and) we did the repairs that were needed.”

The public can nominate someone who embodies the spirit of Vernon and is in need of a vehicle.

Nominations should be emailed to [email protected] and [email protected].

“Please provide a heartfelt description of the person you’re nominating and why you believe they should be the recipient of this incredible gift. We want to hear about their character, challenges they’ve faced, and why a reliable vehicle would make a meaningful impact on their life,” the dealership wrote in the post.

Weaver said the dealership’s management team will look through nominations and choose a winner.

The vehicle will be given away on Dec. 22.

More information about the nomination process can be found here.

Fire final nail in Jack’s coffin
Madison Reeve - Dec 01, 2023 - Biz Releases

Photo: Contributed

Jack’s on Bernard has announced it will be closing its doors for good on Jan. 1.

The bar and restaurant opened on July 1, 2018, and quickly became known for its variety of cocktails.

“Jack’s had a remarkable five-year run, but a series of challenges, culminating in the August fire, has led us to this difficult decision,” owner Casey Greabeiel said.

“The devastating fire resulted in a loss of over a hundred thousand dollars in revenue over a four-week span. Despite hopes of remaining a staple in Kelowna’s food and beverage scene, the lack of government support for businesses affected by unforeseen events became the decisive factor.”

Over the span of five years, Jack’s welcomed holiday lovers to their Winter Wonder Bar around the Christmas season, which has been taken over by sister restaurant Pretty Not Bad.

Greabeiel added the entire Jack’s team will be transitioning to other establishments under the umbrella of the Unconventional Hospitality Group, including Pretty Not Bad, Salt & Brick and Diner Deluxe.

“While bidding farewell to Jack’s was a tough decision, we are excited about consolidating our efforts and resources into our other projects,” Greabeiel said.

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