Bay business advisors have fielded more than 300 emails and calls from businesses worried about how to get through the lockdown after most were forced to close.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce business advisor Roz Irwin says many calls were from business owners at crisis point after having their revenue dry up almost immediately.
"More than anything they want someone to listen to their problems and provide them reassurance it will be okay."
Last month, the Government provided $4 million in funding to the Regional Business Partnership Network (RBP) nationwide to help support businesses affected by Covid-19.
The Tauranga Chamber of Commerce, which holds the contract for RBP in the Bay of Plenty, received a portion of this funding for the region.
The funding went to expanding the resources of business advisers across Tauranga, Eastern Bay and Rotorua Chambers, as well as for Poutama Trust to help Māori business networks and owners.
Irwin said the team had fielded more than 300 emails and calls to the Biz Hub helpline to date from mostly small to medium businesses.
"The initial calls were around advice for the wage subsidy and how to get access to Government support, as well as how to manage their workforce as many businesses we have spoken with were having to close for the lockdown period."
Moving into the second week of lockdown and beyond, Irwin said businesses were now asking advice on how to adapt to "the changing climate of how we do business".
"We've had a few people say they are using this time to work on their business instead of in it."
Irwin described a mixed feeling among businesses.
"Many have had their revenue dry up almost immediately so some of the calls are coming from business owners at crisis point."
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said the extra support had helped to be able to provide businesses with short-term relief through advice, direction and clear information.
Cowley said they wanted to provide businesses with the means to survive and help them plan for the future including upskilling staff to adapt to the new ways of working.
"What we're hearing is many businesses would be able to survive the four-week lockdown but will struggle to survive if this is extended ...
"For many small businesses, ensuring they have the means to sell and service customers through an online portal will be vital."
Business for self-employed HR consultant Rohan Bignell from Two Half Hitches said business had been quiet after most of his retail clients had to close.
"I have had one or two phone calls a week compared to being full-on. It was something like a 40 to 50 hours a week operation prior to Covid."
Bignell sought help from Tauranga business advisers who he said were "very helpful" in guiding him in how to reinvent his business model to be more online-based in the wake of Covid-19.
After 12 years in business, Bignell said it was more challenging than scary to have to change the way he works. His clients who had closed were "shell-shocked and hugely emotional" and he said it was critical to provide support for business owners to avoid making silly mistakes.
A Bay couple has also launched a new social enterprise to help sole-traders and small business owners take immediate action to mitigate the economic downturn of Covid-19.
Business performance and change consultant Isis Farrelly and marketing expert Cameron Macneil are providing advice, tools and resources through their new social enterprise Weather the Storm NZ.
From April 10, it will also include a step-by-step interactive programme called Getting Through where business owners can assess their current position and develop a business and financial plan to get through the effects of Covid-19.
Macneil said there were more than 35,000 self-employed and small business owners in the Bay and he expected more than 1000 to register for Getting Through.
"The total elimination of tourist and visitor spend in the short-medium term is going to mean a lot of businesses will need to entirely rethink their business models."
Priority One chief executive Nigel Tutt said the last week was chaotic for most Western Bay businesses.
"Many are grappling with dramatic changes to their markets and even essential businesses have had to modify the way they operate substantially," he said.
Tutt said over the next week businesses needed to make sure they have good plans to get through the lockdown period.
"Use the Government assistance, look after their staff and talk to their accountants and bank if they need to. There's lots of good advice around," he said.
"In the longer term, we'll expect to see some key areas emerge that will form part of a recovery plan."
Tauranga Budget Advisory Service manager Shirley McCombe said they have had a slow steady stream of calls, most from people wanting food parcels.
"Some [are] concerned about debts and are wanting to see if they can reduce payments to creditors and debt collectors," she said.
Some people were in holiday-mode after week one of lockdown, McCombe said, but others were "very stressed".
"We are seeing several people who cannot access the supermarket because they cannot physically get there and the online services are overloaded. Some do not have family or friends they can call on.
"These are the people who can fall through the cracks at a time like this."
Where to get help:
·Western Bay of Plenty businesses who want to speak to a business adviser can contact 0800 BIZ HUB (0800 249 482) or email@example.com
·It is a free service with no terms and conditions (you don't have to be a member of the Chamber) and it has been set up purely to help businesses survive and thrive in the Covid-19 world.
·The business advisors are local business professionals who can provide free, practical advice and support for businesses with short-term relief and long-term planning.
·Support includes access to free webinars, one-on-one support, business mentoring and business capability development, and specialist support for business owners where the costs are often covered by additional funding.
·Topics covered include staffing and HR, health and wellness, business continuity planning, finance and cash flow, employment law, marketing strategy and development, and more.
Source: Tauranga Chamber of Commerce
Spending drops in Bay
- There were just over $1 million transactions in the Bay between March 22 and 29 - nearly 45 per cent less than the same time last year.
- Bay shoppers spent $62.3m, which was about 26 per cent less than 2019.
- Nationwide, restaurants, cafes and bars dropped the most at a massive 87 per cent and 78 per cent for accommodation the first week of lockdown.
- Spending at pharmacies jumped a massive 81 per cent and 52 per cent at food and liquor stores the week before lockdown and 25 per cent for pharmacies and 31 per cent for food and liquor the week after.