Butchers underline threat posed by supermarkets

MORE THAN 80 independent butchers and other retailers have met week in Cornwall to discuss methods of ensuring the future success of the meat industry in the face of increasing competition from large supermarkets.

The event, hosted by Kensey Vale Meats and which attracted representatives from across Devon and Cornwall, was held at Kensey Vale Meats' Launceston premises. Speakers included Mary Quicke, managing director of Quickes Traditional, and Cornish butcher Phillip Warren. Both speakers emphasised the need for retailers to adapt to survive in an increasingly competitive environment where supermarket sales currently account for more than half of the meat consumed in UK households compared to butchers shops which sell a quarter.

Geoff Pearce, managing director of Kensey Vale Meats said: "We wanted to organise this event to give those working locally in the meat industry the chance to discuss current developments and practical ways in which they can improve and develop their businesses. The supermarkets have created a tough economic environment for many independent traders but, if we can get together as colleagues, it becomes easier to learn essential lessons from those companies that are getting it right."

Ms Quicke's family, who have been farming near Exeter for over 450 years, produce traditional wheyfed pork and a range of traditional cheeses. She said: "The supermarkets are getting increasingly good at focusing their advertising on the products they sell which are locally sourced, but this is something the in-dependent sector can do twice as well."

She continued: "Local retailers need to focus on informing customers, identifying their marketplace and investigating opportunities such as cross-selling produce. When we relocated our own farm shop, we didn't spend a huge amount on the actual renovation but, through focusing on customer service, we doubled our turnover."

Phillip Warren, owner of Philip Warren and Son Farmers and Butchers, sells 'farm direct', traceable meats from his shop in Launceston. He agreed that it was vital for those working in the meat trade, to rise to the challenge posed by supermarkets. "The marketplace has changed enormously in the past ?ve years and it will change again in the next ?ve leaving many retailers behind if they can't adapt. "Consumers are, once again, beginning to want to use local shops because they perceive independent butchers to be selling a superior product but will only come back for more if experience proves to them that is the case."

He continued: "Butchers need to offer different products to those available in supermarkets, provide a better customer service and commit to their business through serious investment - otherwise, in the future, they will be struggling for survival."

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