How much help is it really?

With help being offered through the Northern Development Initiative Trust I have to wonder how much help the programs will be to retailers?

While it is great that there is help at hand for local retailers and service industry businesses being offered through the Northern Development Initiative Trust (NDIT), I have to wonder exactly how much help the programs will be to local retailers?

Some local retailers say that they are now, or will soon be struggling due to loss of sales as a result of the Babine Forest Products explosion and fire that occurred a month ago, that put a more than 200 people out of work.

NDIT  are providing a guarantee of up to 25 per cent of an authorized loan for local retailers and service industry businesses, but I have to wonder how exactly this will help?

Sure it will provide an immediate cash injection into a local business, but what about loan repayment?

If a business is struggling, I would have thought that a loan would be very low on the priority list. Because NDIT has set a $50,000 maximum, they will cover a little over $12,000 of any loan default, while the retailer is expected to pay back the other $38,000, plus interest. In tough times this may be a big task.

They have also offered to cover 50 per cent of the cost of competitiveness consulting, which they say could lead to increased productivity, increased revenue and profitability, as well as the potential of job creation at the business. Great, if you want to pay someone to tell you something you can probably work out for yourself anyway.

Some great tips for struggling small businesses are available online and for free. Bloomberg Business Week [ at www.businessweek.com] has some great suggestions. They recommend boosting advertising and keeping track of sales after an advertising campaign. If one advertising campaign isn’t successful try a different one the next week, but don’t stop advertising.

If there is an item on your menu or on your shelves that is collecting dust or not selling, get rid of it and replace it with something fresh and new. Keep up with buying trends, if you are not sure what customers would like to see on your shelves or menus ask them. An item that was popular last year, may not be as sought after this year.

Get creative and brainstorm innovative solutions to your specific business problems and touch base with customers. Ask for feedback and don’t just assume that customers are leaving the store happy.

Finally make sure your prices are competitive, after all price coupled with good service is often how customers choose where to shop. The final initiative offered by NDIT is really for local government and First Nations bands.

Offering extra grant writers is great and could lead to some money flowing into the area for projects.

Before you sign on the dotted line for a loan, consider other possibilities first.