2018 winner Debbie Edge, from Edge and Son Butchers, tells us of how they have adapted their business in response to the pandemic.
This year the Farm Shop & Deli Awards are looking to shine a light on those specialist retailers who have gone above and beyond for their community. Our judging panel includes previous Retailer of the Year winners and, leading by example, they have shared their lockdown challenges and successes with us in a series of blogs.
Next up is our 2018 winner Debbie Edge from Edge and Son Butchers in Birkenhead, who also have a successful concession at Delifonseca in Liverpool.
What key changes have you made to your business in 2020 and were these planned, or driven by the Covid-19 pandemic?
This is a big question- we feel that we have had to change almost every week this year. To start with all our restaurants closed for lockdown, which we more than made up in retail. Since then we have had various scenarios with those contracts- August was massive with ‘Eat out to help out’, then September was quiet again, and now we are in lockdown once more, so none are open- it has been very challenging.
We have made changes to our business that include:
• One of the permanent changes we have made is a home delivery service throughout Wirral and Liverpool which is largely based on better online presence on both websites (ours and Delifonseca’s where we have a concession).
• We have had to change our service practices in the retail environment to accommodate social distancing (we go outside to take orders from the queue to keep it to a minimum).
• We have made major changes to Christmas to make it a click and collect service (although with much more personal service).
• Our poultry sizes will be a challenge for smaller gatherings, so we are selling half birds in our bronze slow growing free-range turkey.
• We have also invested heavily in transport, staff and new till and accounting systems. We have commissioned some dramatic artwork on the shop front in New Ferry from a famous street artist.
I suspect none of the changes would have happened if it wasn’t for Covid-19. Christmas 2021 will be reviewed no doubt, but all other changes are permanent and ongoing.
Have these been successful? Tell us what results you have seen for your business and customers/suppliers?
Covid-19 has been a blessing for local food businesses like ours. Our turnover has increased massively and is being maintained to a large extent as customers learn and value the difference in our products and our ethics. Customers have had more time to shop and those working from home are able to come to us more easily than when they were ‘going to the office’ every day.
Although specialist stores are seen as very ‘people orientated’, how has technology played a role in driving a sustainable business?
Technology has been essential for the information side of the business in building customer databases so we can offer a more efficient service. Social media has been powerful in instant message sending, eg 'We are open! We will deliver to you!' Etc
Our new POS and accounting systems will soon be earning their keep with information provision and improved efficiency in customer communications both on the contract and retail side.
We know Covid-19 has sent Amazon business through the roof (if it wasn’t already) and we believe that all of us small retailers must keep in mind how simple transactions have to be these days if we are to survive. As you quite rightly say however, we can win on the personal side of the relationship and do every day against supermarkets and online providers.
As it looks like the Covid-19 is here for a while longer, what one key piece of advice would you impart to other specialist retailers from your own experience?
Say yes to any opportunity, keep your doors open, keep changing as you need, keep the momentum going and keep positive dialogue going with your customer base. Talk to them in person and make them feel safe in your environment.
Finally, as previous ROY winners, and now members of the esteemed judging panel, why do you think these Awards are beneficial for businesses to enter, especially this year?
The public have loved shopping locally and are continuing to love it. Covid-19 has allowed some struggling artisans to fly; so join the gang, enter and shout about who you are, what you do and why you do it that way- because the public is listening and craving more amazing independents.
Thank you to Debbie for contributing to our blog, to find out more about Edge & Son Butchers, please visit their website.
Take a look at our other Retailer of the Year Blogs here.
To enter this year’s Awards for a chance to be crowned ‘Best in Region’ click here.