High costs of goods and the ability to travel again have put a hold on home improvement activity in Inuvik this year.
Inuvik Home Hardware franchise owner Joe Lavoie said the surge in sales he saw during the Covid-19 pandemic has pretty much dried up since restrictions on movement and travel were lifted.
“This summer, there’s a big difference,” he said. “May was about normal, but July and August really tapered off. There’s less restrictions and I think people just wanted to get out.
“When I got back from vacation in the month of August it’s been very quiet. “
But correlation may not be causation — Lavoie noted a lot of the projects he supplied over the last two years were smaller projects. Things such as painting, repairing holes in drywall and replacing facades.
In other words, the drop in business could be as much of people having run out of feasible projects.
“Husbands probably had more time and the wives got after them a little more and no one was going anywhere.,” he said. “Little things any household undergoes over time, like a cabinet needs to be fixed or a doorknob needs to be replaced. But if you painted your interior house two years ago, you’re not likely going to do it again.
“A lot of projects that had been put off over time are done now.”
One area Lavoie said he definitely has seen a huge jump in is the cost of goods, both during and following the pandemic. Lavoie said increases all along the supply chain were showing up in the shelf price.
He noted the cost of freight had increased dramatically, but a surge in demand for lumber during the pandemic also drove prices up across the board, much of which have yet to recover.
“Transportation costs have gone up,” he said. “Some of the dimensional lumber came down, but other types have stayed fairly high. But overall the cost materials — I’ve seen increases on almost everything.
“I would say the majority of items we sell have increased in price.”
However, he said it was far too early to draw conclusions on if the high costs are impacting his business, noting when someone commits to a home improvement project they usually go ahead regardless of the costs.
But Lavoie said he saw good things in the future, noting several major infrastructure projects in the works should create new employment, which should eventually trickle down into sales.
“Definitely Inuvik is in an enviable position,” he said. “With the work that’s going to take place at the airport, that definitely is a positive for the community and is going to create some money in people’s pockets.
“I think the town is sitting pretty good at the moment. I don’t think things are going to be super, but we should be in a good position that things should stabilize somewhat and sales will keep steady.”
Numbers obtained from the Town of Inuvik appear to reflect Lavoie’s observations. Development permits are down for 2022 compared to this time in 2021 — specifically, the town has issued 24 development permits in 2022, with the most recent on Sept. 9. By Sept. 9, 2021, the town had issued 36 permits.