A Wellington butcher has put his Kelburn shop on the chopping block to shore up his business after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Cameron Harrison Butchery & Delicatessen lost staff to a supermarket, faced confusion over whether it could open in alert level 4, and has now closed one of its three stores in the region.
Owner Rob Cameron said it was a shame they had to shut up shop in Kelburn but he didn't want to stretch the business too thin after a tough few months.
Cameron said he purchased $20,000 worth of meat prior to lockdown with the understanding butchers would be allowed to stay open.
It wasn't until just eight hours before the country went into lockdown that it became clear they would have to stay shut, Cameron said.
His situation was echoed across the country.
Mad Butcher stores devalued about $3 million of meat by freezing it, because of the confusion about whether butchers were an essential service.
At the time the issue was publicised Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern clarified that butchers, bakers and greengrocers could take orders online or over the phone as long as the delivery was contactless.
Cameron said the situation was "obviously frustrating".
"But at the same time, we still needed to protect what we had and therefore the focus became online deliveries. That's where we put all our time and energy, we just had to go by what we were told by the Government at the time."
By the end of the first week of lockdown Cameron Harrison had lost 90 per cent of its business.
Cameron set about building an online delivery business from scratch after heading into lockdown with a half-finished website.
In the meantime, all shop phones were diverted to one cellphone and orders were taken manually.
It wasn't anything like having stores open, but it was still some money in the bank.
"We just did our best and we managed to turn the business around," Cameron said.
There was a strong focus on up-selling over the phone and on Facebook to get through the $20,000 worth of meat, some of which is still sitting in the freezer.
Cameron said he spent a record amount of money on advertising to let people know they were still there.
His brother gave away about 100 bottles of Aunt Jean's milk throughout a street in Wainuiomata where he lived, not wanting it to go to waste.
But the Kelburn shop was especially hit hard by a staff member leaving to work for a supermarket in search of better job security.
"They decided to jump ship at that time because supermarkets were able to trade and not knowing what the future was going to be for them, it was their decision and we had to make our own decision as well," Cameron said.
Finding a skilled butcher who was also trustworthy and reliable was hard, he said.
The business had already been unsuccessfully advertising for a butcher in another shop for two months prior to lockdown.
"A lot of them aren't taking up this trade as much as when I started 25 years ago and a lot of them have moved on, so times have changed," Cameron said.
It's not the first time a supermarket has been the final nail in the coffin for a Cameron Harrison store.
When Countdown opened in Tawa, turnover at their butcher's shop in the suburb plummeted by 40 per cent overnight, Cameron said.
Despite all this, Cameron said there was a future for local butchers in New Zealand.
"If people out there just support local butchers and smaller businesses and just shop local, we'll be here for a long time."