The Smokehouse: local support crucial
Posted on Wednesday 22 April 2020
It’s no secret COVID-19 and the alert level 4 lockdown have created a myriad of issues for employers and employees alike, with everyone impacted in some way and to some degree. For Peter Pattullo, the nationwide lockdown has been a period of adaptation to get his business and employees through the months ahead.
Pattullo is the proud owner of The Smokehouse. This Nelson Tasman artisan producer provides a wide selection of premium hand smoked seafood that is distributed to supermarkets all over the country as well as sold at the Nelson Market and the Smokehouse Fish & Chip shop on the Mapua Wharf.
While many businesses have been on complete lockdown, The Smokehouse are considered an essential service and have been able to continue operations and production during level 4. The Smokehouse are relying on co-operation from all parties involved and a "buy-local" approach from consumers as they continue to operate in a changing environment and economy.
Their business has seen a whole range of changes in the last few weeks in accordance with the coronavirus lockdown rules.
“We've reconfigured our plant - the tables, machinery, that sort of thing, to ensure good distance between our employees at all times. We've ramped up on PPE gear - ordinarily our factory is a very hygienic environment with employees wearing full protective gear, but now we all wear masks - even the office staff. We've put more hand sanitizer and paper units in place. In the common areas we wipe down and sanitize surfaces three times a day too” Pattullo says.
The Smokehouse’s wholesale business supplies to supermarkets from Whangarei to Bluff and has been impacted greatly. Within the space of 48 hours New Zealand businesses went from alert level 2 to alert level 4 and The Smokehouse saw momentous changes to their overall supply and demand.
“Business sort of came to a screaming halt. We saw an incredibly dire week, where we probably went down to about 35% of normal demand. You go into the supermarkets now and clearly the buyer numbers just aren’t there. Job anxiety and people’s level of income effects purchasing choices and everyone’s being really careful about what they’re buying right now and this is clearly affecting our demand.”
“We’re talking as much as we can to the supermarkets and we're still entering into promotional programs where we can. We want to play our part to try and keep demand at a level where we and the supermarkets can keep some cash flow. It helps with our customers budget which is quite important and to maintain a level of support there too.”
The Smokehouse have short shelf-life products and are largely made to order. At the moment every day remains crucial with the reduced freight scheduling and distribution around the country.
“Air New Zealand have obviously cut back their schedules majorly so our options of air freighting to Auckland are severely, severely, limited, so that's been pretty difficult for us.”
The other side of The Smokehouse business is the takeaways and shopfront in Mapua. That part of the business is completely shut as per the level 4 criteria, so the impact there has been 100%. This effects one full-time staff and six part-time staff until they are able to re-open. The COVID-19 pandemic has created high human resource anxiety, with staff wondering how their job is going to pan out, if they're going to have a job, and what's happening at the end of all of this.
“We're spending a lot of time talking to our staff, reassuring them, and taking the time to explain what's going on and having pretty regular updates. The big message for us is that we're in this together and I think that's really important. There's also a hell of a lot of help out there for business owners in terms of accessing advice about staff and those sorts of things. I think having an open conversation is really important and to keep staff in the loop about your current developments. At every turn we're reassuring the team and doing what we can.”
“A lot of our guys have got partners that are also working, or they've got kids at home - so we’re being much more flexible about our rosters depending on how their home bubbles are playing out. I'm helping out where I can, with small things like a supermarket voucher because people are obviously doing it hard at the moment - so it's just those smaller things that can ease stress.”
Nelsonians have always supported Nelsonians and Nelson Tasman businesses like The Smokehouse need this continued support to “buy and love local”. It’s a message repeated everywhere at the moment, but with everyone struggling in different ways and to different degrees it’s essential we all rally around one another. The financial effects of the pandemic have been significant but as the Government has outlined the details of level 3 life post-lockdown, many Nelson Tasman businesses are relying on their community to help them restart the post-lockdown economy.
“It's important ordinarily to shop local isn't it, and I think it's obviously even more important now. We need to back those guys that are investing in this region, who are creating and providing employment in this region, who are making some really fantastic products in this region. It will help those guys to be able to keep up the employment, keep up the livelihood, and keep this region going.”
“We're pretty blessed with some of our primary produce here in Nelson Tasman from the main ones to fish, to wine, to cheese, and that sort of thing, so there is no reason why we can't support those local businesses - because it's truly all here.”
New Zealand is built on small businesses that look after their staff and contribute to their communities. Now it’s our turn to support the New Zealand businesses we care about. Locals and kiwis in general working together in good faith is crucial for the survival and recovery of some of our most beloved and iconic businesses.
Want to support local during COVID-19? We've made it easier by putting together a shopping list with a Nelson Tasman theme, so you can enjoy some isolation indulgence and feel confident shopping and supporting local businesses at the same time.