CONSUMERS have turned to their high street butchers such as Dewi James and Tom Samways in Cardigan during the current coronavirus pandemic.

New retail statistics for the 12 weeks ending May 17 showed an overall increase in purchasing of meat at retail across Britain, but a dramatic jump in the trade of independent butchers as they because a focal point of the local community and high streets up and down the country.

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 were up by 26.9 per cent overall when compared to last year, but up by 49.1 per cent at high street butchers, with pork showing a similar pattern of a 48.4 per cent jump in sales at specialist independent stores compared with a 24.2 per cent overall increase.

Lamb sales were flat at supermarkets during the period but butchers’ shops saw a 24.9% increase compared to 2019 according to Kantar Worldpanel.

Many Welsh butchers have come up 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 and other essential products – some from fellow local producers - to the door, providing vulnerable customers with a lifeline.

Dafydd Davies of Cigydd Dewi James, which has shops in both 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.”

It’s been a similar story for Tom Samways, at Pendre, in Cardigan, who said: “We were lucky that we have been allowed to stay open and the first question we asked was ‘what can we do to make it safe for people?’

“We introduced hand sanitiser and limited the number of people in the shop. We also put up screens to protect the boys and also give customers that piece of mind that they might not get at a supermarket

“That has given people the confidence to shop with us while we really stepped up the home delivery side, especially for those who are vulnerable.

“I think we have been very lucky where we live. People have heeded the advice, stayed at home and are thinking of the health of others. It has been a great community effort.”

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.

“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.”