Louie Villanueva (Left) Prince Afrim (Top and Right)

Campus businesses thrive as economic uncertainty looms

By Fabian Mayer, January 19 2015 —

As Alberta’s economy falters, University of Calgary businesses are weathering the storm, with many seeing a boost in sales compared to last year.

According to the SU, alcohol sales at the Den are flat. Food sales, however, were up nearly 12 per cent in the first semester compared to the same period last year. Food court vendors have also seen a boost, with sales up five per cent. Stör has seen the biggest increase in revenue, with sales up 33 per cent.

The Den and Stör are directly run by the SU, while food court vendors independently lease space. SU vice-president operations and finance Sarah Pousette said she is surprised by these numbers given the province’s economic situation.

“I think universities, because they have more stable funding, are more isolated from it,” Pousette said.

The Den underwent $480,000 worth of renovations this summer. Pousette believes the bar’s updated look is bringing in more customers, including students looking to study or work on group projects.

“We’re seeing more people that wouldn’t come to the Den,” Pousette said. “It’s become a place that’s just a hang out spot.”

According U of C economics professor Trevor Tombe, the most recent data available shows a 1.3 per cent decline in the food service industry sales. Industry members expect a further drop in 2016 as food prices rise and disposable income falls.

Tombe said he was not particularly surprised by the increased sales on campus.

“Students as a group are going to be pretty isolated from the economic pressures that we see,” Tombe said.

Tombe emphasized that the economic situation in Alberta isn’t as bad as it is often portrayed.

“There also isn’t really a big decline in food and beverage services generally in Alberta,” Tombe said. “The perception that things are really bad out there is just not the case.”

Despite the relatively positive outlook, the Den is facing higher food and liquor costs as a result of the low Canadian dollar. Pousette also admitted that the SU is not completely immune from broader economic issues.

“We are seeing small effects in things like concerts,” she said. “We’re seeing less groups on tour wanting to come into the space.”

Pousette attributes Stör’s boost in sales to a couple of factors, including new payment methods, long hours and more available fresh food options.

“Number one is debit and credit. Students aren’t using cash anymore so having that in there has been a big benefit to students.”


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