High-street butchers saw 50% sales increase during Covid-19 crisis

New retail figures have shown that consumers in their thousands have turned to high street butchers during the Covid-19 lockdown.

Kantar Worldpanel figures for the 12 weeks ending May 17 showed a hefty overall increase in meat sales across Britain, but the increase seen by independent butchers was even more dramatic.

This increase in retail trade has helped to partly offset the loss of important markets for red meat in restaurants, hotels and catering.

Sales of beef, for instance, were up by 26.9% overall when compared to last year, but the figure was almost double at high street butcher shops – increasing by 49.1%.

Pork showed a similar pattern of a 48.4% jump in sales at specialist independent stores compared with a 24.2% overall increase.

Lamb sales were flat at supermarkets during the period, as both Easter and Ramadan fell during lockdown leading to fewer purchases of roasting joints for family occasions. But butchers’ shops saw a 24.9% increase compared to 2019 according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Many butchers across the UK have innovated with new ways of serving customers during the pandemic.

Many have adapted their shops to ensure social distancing, some have started ‘click and collect’ or other online ordering services, and many have delivered meat to the door, providing to vulnerable customers with a lifeline.

Carl Williams of Wavells Butchers in Llanrug, Gwynedd, Wales, said: “Ahead of lockdown we started a new delivery service which was taken up by customers in their droves. This helped to soften the blow felt from the closure of cafes, pubs, hotels and restaurants.

“We’ve introduced new products and are working hard to ensure customers feel safe and confident to shop locally and continue to receive quality, tasty goods.”

Dafydd Davies of Cigydd Dewi James, a company with shops in Cardigan and Newcastle Emlyn, said: “We felt an initial loss of custom from the catering sector with only a small number of these foodservice providers continuing to sell takeaways.

“But having a really strong team that’s been able to operate a fleet of four vans means we’ve been able respond to changes quickly and serve an increased demand of customers seeking deliveries to their door.”

Many of our elderly customers are continuing to place orders by telephone as they regularly would but we’ve seen a marked increase in orders being placed online. Being adaptive and flexible has helped us to maintain services to our loyal and growing customer base.

Hybu Cig Cymru – Meat Promotion Wales (HCC) market development officer Kirstie Jones said: “Although most meat is still sold at the big retailers, the current crisis has seen many people return to high street butchers’ shops. Around 8.5% of beef and pork, and over 12% of lamb, is now sold through these specialist outlets.

“People obviously appreciate how butchers have adapted quickly to the restrictions and served their communities well in difficult times, providing high-quality meat and a bespoke service to their customers.

“HCC is increasing its support to the independent sector, with a new media toolkit being developed for members of our Welsh Lamb and Welsh Beef Butchers’ Club, and we’ll soon have dedicated new channels on social media.”