Butchers defy high street trend

Butchery businesses are bucking the trend of high street closures with a series of new shops opening across the UK.

At least two new operations are now trading in Scotland, a further two in London and one more in Bristol, news of which is being welcomed by butchery leaders. The openings are a reversal of the general high street trend, which has seen a number of well-known chains, including Thorntons, Jane Norman and TJ Hughes, facing difficulties and closures.

The new businesses include: in Scotland, Robert Alexander, of Gourock, near Greenock, and Hillfoots Country Butchers, in Tillicoultry, near Stirling; down in London, the Ginger Pig chain has added another store in Shepherds Bush, while Laverstoke Park has opened its first standalone butchers shop in Twickenham; and in the West Country, Ruby & White has opened up in Clifton, Bristol.

Douglas Scott, chief executive of the Scottish Federation of Meat & Food Traders Association, said: “It’s a good sign, and I would add it’s not just new shops we’re seeing – there’s also quite a lot of confident reinvestment in businesses at the moment, with people refurbishing and buying new fixtures and fittings. Despite the gathering gloom, there’s still a fair amount of confidence about up here that we’re going to come out of it.”

There were also reports of the potential return to the high street of famous butchery brand, Dewhurst. The name had been bought by new company Brand Cellar, which plans to resuscitate and license the historic brand to manufacturers and distributors. A spokesman said it had not ruled out the possibility of launching butchers’ shops, but that it was discussing various options.

However, the potential return of Dewhurst shops to the retail scene would be welcomed by the butchery trade, said Roger Kelsey, chief executive of the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders: “It’s good to hear that Dewhurst might be coming back to the high streets, which are going through a pretty rough time at the moment. With more competition and diversification, high streets up and down the country will gain by encouraging consumers to use them more.”

However, the loss of some of the major non-food retailers from the retail scene could pose issues for butchers, warns Scott: “The big concern for butchers is the loss of the retail infrastructure around them, and that’s the part that needs to be addressed.”