Businessman looks to adapt

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Riverton's Ocean Shell Studios owner Bruce Shields. PHOTO: ABBEY PALMER

A RIVERTON paua shell manufacturer is yet to find a way to adapt to the new normal with Covid-19 border closures.

Ocean Shell Studios owner Bruce Shields has had to face the prospect of making redundant some of the 20 people who make the paua shell brooches, cufflinks, hair clips, necklaces and key rings overseas tourists expect to find in the 120 New Zealand shops he supplies.

“We’re almost at zero with most of our manufactured product which sells in New Zealand.”

Mr Shields’ business also has about 80% to 90% of the market in raw paua shell and exports 200 tonnes a year, mainly to Asian factories which supply the United States and Europe.

“We have pre-Covid orders we are still filling and people haven’t pulled out of them.

“But there is nowhere near the level of inquiry we had before Covid.”

Mr Shields also handled the shipping of mother of pearl shell from the Pacific Islands, which was turned into buttons in factories in Asia.

“Those factories are all in big trouble.

“The pipeline is chocker full of shell and product.”

Mr Shields was pinning some of his hopes on Australian tourists returning to New Zealand with their usual $3 billion of holiday spending money.

But prospects of an early return seemed unlikely, he said.

“As long as the border’s shut, we are in trouble.”

Mr Shields was left with the problem of how to sell paua shell products to New Zealand domestic tourists.

There was no apparent, easy answer, he said.

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