Small businesses feeling the pinch of steep inflation in Warman

In replenishing her store’s inventory of organic foods, groceries, natural supplements and vitamins, owner Jocelyn Redpath tries to support local businesses as much as possible.

But making those choices and keeping prices as reasonable as possible has become harder amid a spike in inflation that has hit the city of Warman in particular, she says. Higher costs for supplies, property taxes, rent and other business necessities are cause for concern.

“We don’t like to overly increase our prices, because we can’t overdo it,” Redpath said.

Between August 2021 and August 2023, Warman saw an 11.5 per cent increase in inflation.

Two years ago, the interest rates also increased from the usual two or three percent to more than seven per cent.

The city just north of Saskatoon, with a population of about 11,000, is feeling the pinch. Several rounds of applications for government funding were denied, putting the onus on taxpayers to fund maintenance and upgrades to city property.

“We’re having to be solutions-oriented and find ways to save money,” said Mayor Gary Philipchuk.

On the city’s priority list is expansion of the Warman Home Center Communiplex, which would include a second ice surface and alleviate demands at the aging Diamond Rodeo Arena. Another item on the draft budget is a new RCMP building, which may end up being shared with other municipalities.

“It’s a frustrating process because we thought were next in line but we didn’t get what I would say was our share of recreation infrastructure funding,” Philipchuk said. “Now we are reaching out to our local taxpayers to help fund that.”

A special meeting of council is scheduled for Nov. 13, when council will work to alleviate expenses from the draft 2024 capital and operating budgets.

Cory-Anne Wagner, who owns a physical and mental wellness business called Self Wellness, said she had to raise wages at her small business to allow people to make a living.

“When a tax goes up, we feel it personally and professionally. Work more, work harder,” Wagner said. “We have to push ourselves.”

For at least some of the businesses in Warman, the economic stressors also highlight the need for their services: to gather and spend time with friends, seek proper nutrition, or deal with physical health challenges.

“There’s a lot of mental blocks that come with our physical health,” Wagner said. “It’s very important people are seeking both sides.”

A draft budget prepared in mid October included a proposed nine per cent municipal property tax hike, but Warman city council has said it wants to reduce the increase to six per cent.

Earlier this year, council voted to implement a creational capital levy of $75 per property in 2024, tied to recreational facilities.

Mike Friesen, who owns and operates Dice Hollow Games and Hobbies in Warman, said his store has mostly seen the effects of inflation in the number of people who have the financial flexibility to purchase games.

Friesen tries emphasizes the human-to-human connection the store’s products help foster.

“The things we sell are ‘want’ items, not ‘needs’ items,” Friesen said. “Just in general, when things cost more, there may be people who decide against buying something.”

Kimiya Shokoohi is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for the Saskatoon StarPhoenix. The LJI program is federally funded by the Government of Canada.

Kimiya Shokoohi, The StarPhoenix