A Tauranga butcher who has lost $150,000 and counting during the Covid-19 lockdown says the Government needs to do more to support small to medium-sized businesses struggling to keep afloat.
The comments come following confusion around whether butchers could trade as an essential service online.
Doug Jarvis owns and operates two butcheries, one in Pāpāmoa and one in Mount Maunganui. The impact of Covid-19's lockdown on him and other butchers had been "devastating", he said.
"I know it's had an impact on all business ... The more people realise the disaster for butchers, the better."
The Government announced early last week butchers could trade online if they had an existing digital service. It came nearly two weeks after many butchers shut up shop after being told they were not essential services.
At the end of March a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment spokesperson said butcher shops were not classified as essential as what they supplied could largely also be purchased at supermarkets.
Then last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern clarified butchers, bakers and greengrocers could take orders online or over the phone as long as the delivery was contactless.
Jarvis said the confusion had been a "nightmare".
He said he'd been told, up until the last night before lockdown, he could trade during alert level 4. He ordered large amounts of stock to cater for increased demand but was then unable to sell any of it, he said.
"We got thousands of dollars in meat. I had to come into the shop and put everything in the deep freeze. Everything. It reduces the cost of the meat," he said.
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Jarvis said that alone cost him between $120,000 to $150,000.
Jarvis said he was grateful for the wage subsidy for his team, which he has applied for. However, concerns for their welfare, as well as that of the business, kept him awake at night.
"I have 22 staff. They are still under my employment. I have to look after them but to be honest, the money is running out fast."
Jarvis has already been on the phone to the bank and landlord.
While the butchery was busy with online orders from loyal customers, it did not equate financially to business as usual, he said.
Jarvis hoped the Government would recognise the impact to small to medium businesses such as himself and offer some support.
Covid-19 had turned the world upside down, he said.
"The world won't be the same again."
Government support for businesses currently available includes the wage subsidy and a business finance guarantee scheme for small and medium-sized businesses.
Under the scheme, businesses with annual revenue between $250,000 and $80 million can apply to their banks for loans up to $500,000, for up to three years. The scheme will offer a total of $6.25 billion in loans to New Zealand businesses.
Bethlehem Butchery's Ben Taylor said they were only told at 4.15pm the day before the lockdown they would not be able to trade.
Taylor said watching businesses, such as the 4 Square next door, operating while he was unable to was "frustrating".
However, Taylor was buoyed by his "amazing" customers.
"They were really good at getting down here quickly and getting the stock. I wasn't really left in the lurch too much. I'm forever grateful to them for that."
Taylor said, like Jarvis, while he was operating online, it was no substitute for the money the business would typically make during the week. Any assistance from the Government in the form of rent subsidies or tax credits for small to medium business would make a big difference, he said.
"It would help to alleviate the pressure. Small businesses still have monthly outgoings. They haven't stopped."
Mad Butcher group chief executive Michael Morton earlier told NZME its stores devalued about $3m of meat by freezing it, he estimated, because of the confusion about whether butchers were an essential service.
Clarification from the Government that butchers could operate online was too late for many businesses, he said.
Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Matt Cowley said people in construction, retail and hospitality had been especially hard hit by Covid-19 restrictions.
While online sales were an option for some, not everyone was equipped to also manage e-commerce in an already tumultuous time, he said.
"This is why, particularly with smaller businesses, some are already talking with banks, landlords and employees. They don't need the additional administration of having websites up to date. It's a challenge and particularly trying to do it remotely while in lockdown - having to change business process."
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment did not respond to requests for comment.
Guidelines in order for butcheries to operate include:
• The retail shop must remain closed to the public for over-the-counter or self-service sales.
• Butcheries must operate subject to health measures, and registration with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MBIE) if required.
• Applies to raw products only.
• Operation with more than five staff (including the owner) must register with MPI essential services