Hawke's Bay equestrian businesses say the cancellation of this year's Land Rover Horse of the Year will hurt their finances for months to come.
After 48 hours of discussions, the event's board of directors announced the cancellation of the 2021 event due to Covid-19 uncertainty.
New Zealand's premier equestrian event, which was due to take place at Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana from March 9 to 14, attracts over 45,000 spectators, 1900 horses and 1500 riders.
Horse of the Year chairman Tim Aitken said the event costs over $2 million to stage, but its cancellation will see Hawke's Bay miss out on 11,000 visitors and their $5.29m of spending.
Aitken said the team worked tirelessly to find a way for the show to proceed, but the uncertainty left them with no choice but to cancel.
The chairman also cited sustainability worries, travel and time pressures for riders and the health and wellbeing of attendees.
Event manager Sophie Blake said the "heartbreaking" decision to cancel was not made lightly, with most expenses already having been incurred.
"We had over 160 trade retailer sites from all around New Zealand who are no longer able to sell to thousands of visitors," she said.
"However, a large proportion come from Auckland so we would have been missing a large part of the retail experience and we did not want to compromise on the show quality, or have retailers incur the cost of travelling to Hawke's Bay to find the levels didn't change and we couldn't go ahead."
Nick White, owner of Hastings-based business The Tackshop, said the store will lose close to a quarter of its yearly sales following the cancellation.
"We have a huge stall each year, which creates revenue equivalent of three months of regular in-store retail," he said.
"It's a major loss for us.
"We've already purchased several hundred thousand dollars' worth of stock, which we now need to try to sell in a different way."
All trade retailers will receive refunds, with ongoing discussions about how to help the trade sites sell excess stock.
Business Hawke's Bay CEO Carolyn Neville said businesses from restaurants and cafes, petrol stations, accommodation and retail will be "out of pocket".
"Stallholders at the event will be particularly hard hit as they will have stocked up in anticipation of good sales," she said.
"Hopefully they can find a way to sell that stock through online channels, and at good margins, or cancel orders with minimal losses."
Blake said organisers will be supporting businesses in the coming days and weeks as the impact will be "far-reaching".
White said online promotional help may be one way to solve the "stressful" period for equestrian businesses.
"We've heard there may be an online promotion of sorts to promote stores which can't sell. We need something to help us with our stock."
Hawke's Bay Tourism chief executive Hamish Saxton said since the move to alert level 2, the organisation has received calls from accommodation, hospitality and tourism operators amid cancellation concerns.
"This isn't a problem that is unique to Hawke's Bay, as we saw with Taupō's Nutri-Grain Ironman event unable to run this weekend and Wings Over Wairarapa air shows cut short last weekend," he said.
"However, as we have already seen before, this confidence does bounce back at an alert level 1 environment and visitors return; so we certainly look forward to a bigger and better Land Rover Horse of the Year in 2022."
Next year's event is already penned in for March 8 to 13, 2022.
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said she looks forward to welcoming thousands of visitors to next year's event.
"While it's disappointing and a huge loss to our economy, we support the decision and hope to see everyone in 2022," she said.
All ticket holders will receive a full refund over the next week, while riders and exhibitors will be notified directly of the next steps.