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Businesses settling into Level 2

Pip Hannon arranges one of the meat counters at Homegrown Butchery, Deli and Pantry. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

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New Zealand is now six days into Level 2, and a new reality of covid-19 in the community.

As yet there is no accurate gauge on how this has affected Wairarapa economically.

Towards the end of July, a Times-Age article showed confidence among the region’s small and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs] was generally improving.

Several SMEs reported a rise in sales throughout July, as Wairarapa returned to relative normality, despite some redundancies and a marked rise in new welfare grants.

Karen Tomuri at Nirvana Interiors in Greytown reported a bumper month and was buoyant that sales had returned to a good level – on Monday, despite everything, she was “still confident”.

“We’ve had a steady time, but it went quiet last week for a couple of days.

“We’re up for July and I think we’ll be up for August, but it has steadied out a bit.

“I think we’re all a bit wary with where we’re going now after last week, so we’re definitely a bit cautious.”

Because a large number of SMEs don’t have to worry about 100-person limits, she said that social distancing in the spacious store was easy, and that everyone had been signing in with the NZ Covid Tracer app and using hand sanitiser.

“I feel pretty positive that the government will try and keep it under control … We’re keeping our fingers crossed, but confident that at Level 2 we can function pretty well.”

Paula Bevege, owner of wedding and events venue Rose and Smith, based in Tauherenikau, was one SME industry figure for whom differing alert levels meant everything.

“A lot of people have postponed but they haven’t cancelled, which is good,” Bevege said.

Rose and Smith’s business model, as with all venues, is centred around social distance and gathering; two things that teeter in the balance between Level 2 and Level 3.

“We’re nervous about it, and all of our customers are really determined to go ahead, so if we are able to run, they want to reduce the numbers and do it at 100.

“We’re just waiting: it’s all we can do, and we’re just doing whatever we can to help … It will probably be two or three years before we get back to normal.”

Homegrown Butchery, based in Kuripuni, opened last year, and was a newer business which sold fresh meat and related cooking produce, both in-store and online.

Ali Kilmister owns the premises along with husband Dion. She said covid-19 had created massive uncertainty for them.

“Short-term and long-term planning are extremely hard to do at the moment,” Kilmister said.

Butcher shops are at the centre of a debate around whether they can or can’t stay open, should the rest of New Zealand go to Level 3 like Auckland. For Homegrown Butchery, there were risks with both options, but with a strong online presence, Kilmister said it could even be safer if they were closed down.

“There’s the fear that your staff are going to get sick, so we’re a little bit on the fence about that one, only because we can deliver – a contactless system may actually be safer for our business.”

With the possibility of blanket closures under Level 3, Kilmister said she was torn about investing in an enforced switch to 100 per cent online.

“You live in that heightened sense of anxiety the whole time: do you invest a lot of things that are consumable, like chill-tainers [for fresh meat delivery], that you might not need to use? It feels like you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t.

“I have real anxiety around whether we’ll be open tomorrow.”

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