Butcher driv­ing re­tail prices down

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By NARELLE HEN­SON

He’s crazy.

At least, that’s what his ac­coun­tant says, but Mata­mata’s Owen Hen­der­son is a des­per­ate man and that means even mad­ness looks like a good op­tion.

Hen­der­son owns The Meat Com­pany, a re­tail butch­ery strug­gling to com­pete with su­per­mar­kets ‘‘ smash­ing spe­cials to de­stroy each other weekly’’.

The in­ter­net adds an­other layer of com­pe­ti­tion.

So the Mata­mata butcher has come up with a sur­vival strat­egy: he plans to keep the re­tail side of his busi­ness afloat by sell­ing at whole­sale prices.

Hen­der­son didn’t make the de­ci­sion lightly. He has been in the in­dus­try 41 years, and has tried sev­eral re­tail mod­els.

Af­ter get­ting his first job at a butch­ers in Wa­haroa at 15, he worked his way up the lad­der to own­er­ship over 28 years.

The shop was called Waikato Meat Sup­plies, and when the meat fac­tory in Wa­haroa closed up Hen­der­son moved his busi­ness to Mata­mata.

That was when he de­cided to give fran­chis­ing a go, sell­ing un­der the Ex­port Meat Ware­house brand un­til the bills for be­long­ing to the fran­chise piled up higher than the money com­ing in.

That is why the The Meat Com­pany co- op­er­a­tive formed three years ago. A group of ex- fran­chisee own­ers got to­gether to see if they could get the same group dis­count deals the fran­chise of­fered, while con­tin­u­ing to op­er­ate as in­di­vid­ual stores.

‘‘It’s just a world of com­pe­ti­tion.’’

Now, that world of com­pe­ti­tion is driv­ing him to try one last strat­egy to keep the re­tail side of the busi­ness afloat.

While people could save them­selves up to 40 per cent by buy­ing half a lamb to last them six months, few are will­ing or able to pay the steep price tag up­front at a re­tail butcher’s.

As he says, ‘‘ The only thing that counts now is the buck. Loy­alty is non ex­is­tent. People are spe­cials shop­pers.’’

That got Hen­der­son think­ing. Why not keep the whole­sale price, but break it down into smaller pack­ages for people?

He es­ti­mates it will save his cus­tomers 33 per cent on their meat bill. At the mo­ment you could walk into The Meat Com­pany and buy a mixed 12.5 kilo­gram pack of prime beef, pork and lamb for $150. All meat and all cuts sell for $11.95 per kg as of the start of the month.

With rent in the re­tail shop to pay, plus wages and power among other things, Hen­der­son has had to make some changes to give the new strat­egy the best shot.

He had one staff mem­ber leave to go farm­ing re­cently, and won’t re­place him un­less sales pick up.

He’s also buy­ing dif­fer­ently. Lamb and pork have to be bought whole­sale, but buy­ing a big­ger car­cass saves a bit. Beef, on the other hand, is still avail­able from lo­cal sup­pli­ers, and by leav­ing his whole­saler Hen­der­son has saved a ‘‘ mar­gin of about 10 to 12 per cent’’. He is also break­ing bone in the meat him­self. As he says; ‘‘it’s a bit labour in­ten­sive, but I’m also sav­ing.’’

If it doesn’t work Hen­der­son will just fo­cus on whole­sale side of his busi­ness. He has sev­eral con­tracts with smaller cafes, and says Hob­biton, To­tara Springs Chris­tian Camp and Two Tones Cater­ing have been his ‘‘lifeblood’’.

But he says re­tail butcher stores don’t need to be con­signed to his­tory yet.

‘‘I don’t think it needs to be [dy­ing], I don’t need to be yet.’’

Sur­vival strat­egy: Mata­mata’s Owen Hen­der­son, owner of The Meat Com­pany.

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