Optimism high amongst butchers

Optimism is riding high among butchers, despite new figures indicating a 2.8% annual drop in the number of businesses registered as butcher's shops for VAT purposes.

The new data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), out on 30 September, show that there was a net drop of 190 retail businesses across the UK in the last year. There were 6,515 VAT-registered butchery businesses in March 2009, compared to 6,705 in March 2008.

But Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders suggested that the industry may be seeing consolidation as butchers retire and sell up.

"What may be happening, if you look at our membership, is that businesses are adding more outlets. People are retiring and selling their shops to other butchers, so the number of VAT registrations goes down. We have been down the road of losing shops when licensing came in, and in the 1990s with the march of the supermarkets. But we are holding our own now."

He said the sector was actually in better health than it had been for years.

The ONS data shows that some 68% or 4,450 of the businesses registering as butchery retailers employed less than five people. None employed more than 250 people. The most common category for turnover was between £100,000 and £249,000, wth 2505 businesses (38.4%) falling into that group.
Some 590 of the businesses were less than two years old while 65.2% or 4,250 businesses were more than 10 years old.

However, research by the Local Data Company claimed the fall in independent shop numbers is higher, with around 7.3% of high street butchers and fishmongers shutting down. Its study of 1,760 shops, across 705 town centre high streets, showed 128 closures over the nine months between 1 January 2009 and 20 September.

It attributed the closures to the effects of recession and increased supermarket competition, but said butchers were faring better than other high street stores, with the rate of closure for butchers and fishmongers well below the 10% average for high street closures.

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