Shopfitting: Fighting Fit
Published:  11 February, 2016

Ensuring your business is looking its best can be costly but it’s vital for any butcher with long-term success in mind, says Aidan Fortune.

With National Butchers’ Week just around the corner, it’s an opportunity to shine the spotlight on your shop. But is it up to scratch? The campaign is designed to increase awareness of butchery businesses but if they don’t look their best, all the events and marketing in the world won’t help you keep those customers.

It’s easy for a business to let this element of the shop fall by the wayside. Rising business costs, the struggle to fight off competition from the multiples, as well as the red tape that comes with running a meat business, mean that ensuring the shop looks its best can slip down the list of priorities, especially as it often means a financial outlay to keep up with the times. However, some butchers see this as an essential business investment.

Back in 2014, Yorkshire butcher Brindon Addy spent £160,000 on a refit and extension, which was part of a long-term plan for the business. The project enabled Addy to expand his range and his customer base. He says the refit was a must for his business. “It allowed us to evolve from being a small butcher to become a small food hall,” he says. “We received a lot of positive comments from customers who liked the new look, plus it gained a lot of local press attention, which is always good for the business.”

According to Aaron King, director at HK Interiors, the financial rewards of an overhaul can be considerable. “I’ve seen some shops increase sales by 50% in the week following a refit and then maintain a 25-30% increase in sales in the following months.”

He ascribes this to human nature. “Customers are generally very nosy and if a shop undergoes a refit, they’ll want to see what has changed and that’s the opportunity for them to be turned into regular customers.”

If an overhaul is done regularly, it can work out as less expensive than a massive overhaul every decade or so. King says: “It creates an excitement and acts as a relaunch for the business and it’s a great chance to win some new customers.”

“There’s never any harm in changing things up a
bit in a shop to keep it looking new”

He warns that butchers shouldn’t wait until the shop is falling down around them to have a refit. “Even if it doesn’t look like it needs a refresh, there’s never any harm in changing things up a bit to keep it looking new,” he says. “I’ve worked on shops that looked brand new before we started the job so it was more a case of the owner refreshing the business because he felt it was time to.”

Last year, Middlesbrough butcher Newboulds spent £60,000 on a full refit at its Linthorpe branch which included new wall coverings, flooring, ceilings, refrigeration, counters, lighting, an improved hot food facility and extraction fan system.

Although it is over 160 years old, the business realises that customers love to see a refresh every so often. “Thanks to the refit, customers at our Linthorpe Road site have new, improved fresh meat displays, offering more choice in fresh, locally sourced meat and poultry,” says James Munro, managing director of Newboulds. “The investment also means we now have an improved hot food display at Linthorpe Road, offering customers more choice.”

Showing off

King says that theatre is in vogue at the moment with a lot of butchers opting for ageing cabinets with hanging meat. “If done properly, they look great. I’ve seen some

units added on to existing chillers and it looks tacked on. If you’re going to do it, get a bespoke unit that is all built-in so it looks like a completed set-up.”

Clark Watson, managing director at Watco Systems agrees. “We’re seeing a lot of backwall hanging displays and meat ageing cabinets, which look great, but it’s vital they complement the existing set-up.”

King adds that it’s tough to say what styles are in at the moment. “Black, white and green are popular but there’s a mixture of modern styles and old-fashioned. It all comes down to the personal preference of the owner.”

Case study

Not every refit has to end up looking like it belongs in the Museum of Modern Art. London-based butcher Godfrey Co (pictured above) opted for the classic style when it had a refresh. Hoping to transport customers back to the Edwardian era, when the company was first established, owner Chris Godfrey wanted to put across the feeling of butcher tradition, elegance and quality craftsmanship.

The shop was tiled in British-made period tiles, the ceiling was specifically designed to create a traditional look and bespoke brass detailing was incorporated to give it a regal finish including an external brass sill on the shopfront to attract those passing by. No detail was spared as the refit went down to shelving units, servery cupboards and worktops with granite surfaces and an ogee edge detail to produce an old-fashioned result.

He does say that the butchery industry is taking cues from the pub sector with looks of distressed shops with exposed brickwork. “That style is very popular with younger butchers who are the new generation coming into the sector.”

Watson says that most refits have followed similar styles. “There has been a lot of decorating in neutral colours such as grey and silver and, except for a few ‘fit in with the rest’ projects, grey/silver/black or subtle woodgrain finishes have been the choice for the last three years.”

Long-term investment

Finally, when it comes to cost, King says butchers have to look long-term. “A company like ours can always work to someone’s budget and while it might be cheaper to contract all the individual traders yourself, the time it takes to do so, plus the potential of closing the shop for several Saturdays, represents a cost in itself and something that puts a lot of butchers off in the first place.

“There’s no point in scrimping – I’ve seen butchers buy cheaper chiller units but they expend more energy and break down sooner. You may end up buying a replacement unit in a few years that works out as more expensive than buying a better-quality unit, plus you could potentially have some very high energy bills which is another cost.”

Mary Irving of Creative Retail Solutions says it’s best to go for top quality when it comes to refitting. “We always counsel our customers to consider that the world will be the shop window for their products for some time and so this is an area to consider wisely and not to skimp on budget.

“A high-quality well-designed and engineered display will provide a great display for fresh meat for many years, helping increase and maintain the turnover of the business. Customers who invest in high-quality, more expensive counters normally reap long-term rewards.”