Time for a change

Some of you will be thinking that summer cannot come fast enough for the butcher's trade, because from what you have told us, January was pretty dire sales-wise. It seems the bad weather made difficult economic times even worse so we wish you all the best in the coming months.

However, we have to face facts. Prices are going to remain high for some time yet, so while the weather might improve, certain trading aspects will not.

At the NFU Conference last week bullishness was rife, with many a farmer getting a real spring in their step at the prospect of a Tory government malleable to their needs and the higher figures they could charge for their livestock. "No longer can processors and retailers take the mick out of us," said one. "We are in a stronger position than for a long time, and should make the most of it."

Farmers simply won't back down on the greater returns they have been receiving of late. Meanwhile, the message from the NFU executive was 'export even more'.

While times are not great for those community-minded butchers among you wanting to give good value to regular customers, this could be just the right time to focus on aspects of your business other than price.

Indeed, the good news for those of you wanting to look at better marketing, store layout or staffing is that this is a great time to do it. National Butchers' Week kicks off on 15-20 March, and is the start of a series of events to help you market your shop and maximise your sales. Foodex follows on 21-24 March, with Bpex's 'Bacon Connoisseurs Week' on 22-28. So maybe now is the best time for a change.

JAMES

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