Former staff and suppliers blast Pet Central for ‘toxic work culture’ following company’s collapse

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Aug 07, 2023 |

Former suppliers and staff of Pet Central continue to speak out, voicing anger at the way they have been treated by the company.

Despite previous reassurances that the company was not in jeopardy, owner and sole director Matthew Pizzo sent what has been described as a “gutless” text message on Sunday night to staff informing them of his decision to close the stores in Queenstown, Timaru, Hornby, Papanui, Shirley, and Moorhouse Ave.

Another store in Kaiapoi was planned, but has now been scrapped.

Chris Lynch Media has interviewed numerous staff members across various roles and has secured written statements.

A former senior staff member, who wanted to remain anonymous, said he left the company due to bullying.

“I walked out, as I wouldn’t tolerate the amount of bullying very senior management gave to staff. It was probably the worst bullying I have ever experienced.”

He claimed a senior manager had seven personal grievances to their name, and went through 56 staff over three months, saying “they psychologically abused the young staff calling them monkeys and yelling at them daily.

“I tried to stop it, and protect them, then when I realised I couldn’t, I helped a lot of the young people move to new jobs.”

Chris Lynch Media made repeated attempts to contact that manager, but calls went unanswered.

According to other staff member, “management’s behaviour was common knowledge in the sector.”

“Pet Central became an “extremely toxic work environment, especially with Matt as owner.

“He would yell at employees in front of customers creating a stressful and intense work environment.

“Our leave was almost always denied. I went a whole year without being allowed to take leave. I often had panic attacks at work and nothing ever changed. We were encouraged to lie to customers about why we didn’t have stock, blaming suppliers and Covid-19.”

Another senior worker said staff were expected to meet unrealistic sales targets, which couldn’t be achieved because management refused to re-stock products.

Suppliers have been hit hard by the liquidation with one revealing to Chris Lynch Media, “we’ve been chasing them for thousands of dollars, since November last year with promises of payment then more recently just total ghosting.

“We’re absolutely gutted. It’s a huge blow for a small business like ours. He’s destroyed the legacy that the former owner worked so hard to build. I’m totally disgusted with him.”

A former business associate told Chris Lynch Media “he’s ruined me.”

A liquidator’s first report is expected to be made public on Friday on the Companies Office website, which will reveal the extent of Pet Central’s financial status.

Pizzo has not responded to repeated requests from Chris Lynch Media for comment on the allegations, but he did release a statement through his liquidator on Monday.

Pet Central has long prided itself on providing expert advice and quality pet foods and products to pets and pet owners in Canterbury. 

 Sadly, we have chosen to close our doors as we can no longer keep up with inflation, ever increasing wholesale costs, and the all too familiar and continuing squeeze on Kiwis’ disposable incomes. 

 The future of New Zealand’s pet retail, much like the grocery industry, now rests in the hands of a few major players with scarce room for family-owned independents. Economies of scale and the resulting differences in buying power have made it impossible to compete with the two majority Australian owned retail market share leaders.

 As we navigate these challenging times, we have prioritized staff wages and ensured that they have been paid in full.  

 Pet Central wishes to thank all our loyal staff, customers, and four-legged friends. Thank you for your support, kindness and well wishes during this difficult time.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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