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Thurston Butchers sees rise in trade from customers shopping locally during coronavirus pandemic

A village butchers has noticed a dramatic increase in footfall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

At its peak, Thurston Butchers was three times as busy in terms of customer numbers and turnover.

Alastair Angus, owner, said: "This chapter of the business has certainly been challenging. We have complied with all public health guidance regarding self-isolation should any symptoms in the households of our staff occur. Fortunately we managed to ensure we always had enough staff at all times to cover the extra workload and all of them have worked incredibly hard with overtime as a result.

Alastair Angus, of Thurston Butchers (36758576)
Alastair Angus, of Thurston Butchers (36758576)

"For seven to 10 days we had huge issues to guarantee stock. Due to excessive stress put on the supply chain we just couldn't get enough meat. At this point we were three times as busy as we usually would be in the period of March-April, but we could only guarantee around a third of the stock we had ordered and needed.

"Fortunately our customers were extremely understanding and accommodating and very quickly our suppliers got to a sustainable level."

Alastair said this had been restructured as a result of the pandemic, offering free local deliveries to the elderly, most vulnerable and NHS staff struggling to get to the butchers.

"We have also been fortunate in picking up some fantastic part time workers who have really stepped up to keep production levels up to where they need to be due to demand," said Alastair.

"We have had to develop our own strategy with how we interact with our customers, including asking for contactless payments where possible, deliveries to customers' car boots to allow for no interaction and constant use of hand sanitiser and disinfectant by our tills.

"We have also been allowing only one customer in at time. The latter has been challenging as there is inevitably a bottle neck situation that occurs as you can only turn over our customers so quickly. Not only that, we know our customers so well so it's important for us not to lose that personal touch and spend time asking how their are during these difficult times"

Kerry Newton, apprentice butcher at Thurston Butchers, said: "It's been fantastic to see so many new faces support what we do here, I just hope it continues once lockdown eases and people don't go back to using supermarkets instead of local businesses."

As result of restaurants, pubs and cafés closing, the butchers saw that area of business stop overnight.

"This accounts for around five per cent of our business so we weren't hit too hard from the catering side of the business. We also noticed that because people weren't eating out and were at home more, they had more time to cook and explore different recipes, which in turn helped us out, so it levelled out in the end," said Alastair.

Just before Christmas Alastair opened a new side to the business in the form of Thurston Butchers Cookhouse, a state-of-the-art facility specialising in homemade sausage rolls, scotch eggs and gourmet pies, all using meat from the butchers. Demand for Cookhouse products has doubled during the pandemic.

Last week, the butchers shop launched a ‘drive-thru’ click and delivery service, which Alastair said was already working out well.

Thurston Butchers, in School Road, is open Tuesday to Friday 7.30am-5.30pm and Saturday 7.30am-1pm.

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