‘We need help’: Halifax small-business owner says he’ll go bankrupt due to coronavirus

There has been anxiety swirling around the world and in Nova Scotia as COVID-19 cases continue to spike.

However, to date, despite 226 lab tests being carried out in the province, there are still no confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

But its impacts are already being felt financially by John Luckhurst, who has been running a trade show at the Halifax Exhibition Centre called the Atlantic Retail Fair for the last 45 years.

“I’ll just say that at this point it looks like I will be facing bankruptcy,” said Luckhurst, who runs the industry show for Atlantic Canadian retailers from April 5 to 7.

He said there has been a lot of uncertainty in the last 48 hours, and he is still trying to decide whether to cancel the trade show or not, because if he does, then that would mean he’ll lose his business.

“We would hope to postpone, but the nature of our show makes it difficult to postpone because you’re buying for the season,” said Luckhurst.

“Because the later you postpone, the less likely your stories are going to need the product that you’re having,” he added.

Some of the items sold at the fair are for gift stores, pharmacies and fashion jewelry places.

Luckhurst explained that when a small company holds an event like this, all of the organizer’s annual revenue is tied into one show.

“Not only do I lose my business, I lose a year’s pay,” he said.

As the organizer, Luckhurst said that when he holds these shows, the venue needs the money upfront, as well as decorators and promotion.

“I’m in a situation where I have spent the money for the show. If it gets cancelled, I am not going to be refunded by any of those players,” he said.

“They’re all larger and more powerful than I am. And I’m going to give their money back and my suppliers want their money back. And so I’m in a situation where I will be bankrupt.”

Luckhurst said that his “phone is ringing off the hook” mainly from suppliers and exhibitors because, at this point, they’ll have to ship their product here.

But he said he’ll wait for more updates from the government to make the call to cancel.

“I am avoiding anything for 48 hours here,” Luckhurst said.

“It seems likely as information is coming in, that there’ll be a mandate to cancel all events that happen within 100 people or more in attendance,” said Luckhurst.

He said the show features 800 retail stores from across Atlantic Canada, with about 120 suppliers from all across Canada.

As of Thursday, New Brunswick has already recommended that all non-essential events or activities of 100 people or more be suspended due to the virus. But Nova Scotia hasn’t yet.

“We’re most likely going to cancel those dates,” said Luckhurst.

“However, if the situation basically put us into a bankruptcy, I’ll lose everything,” he added.

“We need help. Hopefully, the government will step in and help out to keep me out of bankruptcy.”

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