Fred'll fix it

Q It has been a tough year in this shop as many of my customers have traded down from higher value items to cheaper products. My mince sales have soared, for example. I am worried that this may transfer into poor sales over Christmas. Is there anything I can do about it? TG

It has been a tough year in this shop as many of my customers have traded down from higher value items to cheaper products. My mince sales have soared, for example. I am worried that this may transfer into poor sales over Christmas. Is there anything I can do about it? TG

A In recent years Christmas shopping has started later and later and, given the state of the economy, there is every reason to suppose that many customers will leave purchasing until quite late in the day this year too. People do usually spend well for the festive season though, then cut back in January.

There are a number of things you can do. Hopefully you have your order book from last Christmas. Go through it and contact each customer to enquire whether they will require the same order this year. Offer them some extra items too. This can be done when they come into the shop or through a mail out, if you have their addresses. You should take addresses with orders as these are valuable to your database.

Some butchers have previews of their Christmas products at a special late night opening, usually in late November. It means having to set up special Christmas displays but it gets Christmas orders off to an early, flying start.

Do have plenty of order forms on hand, of course. It is best to do this as a special late-night opening. You could simply make it open house for anyone or it could be a private opening by invitation only; that is a good way of making loyal customers feel particularly special.
Previews of this sort are a good way of identifying which of your new, Christmas products are likely to be the best sellers. A Christmas preview might take a lot of organising and can be costly but it also has a genuine advantages.

Q One of my customers has enquired about a three-bird roast. Are they difficult to prepare and do you have any particular tips? TS

A The real difficulty is that they take a long time to prepare, and they are expensive because of the time and the different ingredients used. They make superb Christmas or New Year meals though because they are rich in flavour and, being boneless, easy to carve.

A goose or turkey is best as the main bird used. Into this can be placed pheasant and chicken along with dried fruit and stuffing mixes. Do take the skin off the pheasant and chicken but leave it on the outer bird. Removing the skin from the birds placed inside the turkey will allow for more thorough cooking and better eating quality.

Try to source birds that are not too fat. It is possible to prepare five bird roasts but there is the danger of having too many flavours.

Q For years I used a little pocket book that calculated selling prices and profit margins for meat cuts. Is such a publication still available as my version is quite old and out of date? DT

A Accurately pricing cuts is even more essential in these stringent economic times. Unfortunately, the little pocket book you refer to has been out of publication for a number of years now. However Eblex has a calculator on its website at www.eblexretail.co.uk. This is a good tool for establishing the selling prices and targets.

Costings can be calculated for a range of cuts such as joints, chops, mince and steaks. It can also be used to calculate costings for carcases on the one hand and added value products, including crumbed and marinated products, on the other. There is even a section for working out the costing for burgers, sausages and other processed products.

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