How a local butcher is taking on the supermarket giants and winning

How a local butcher is taking on the supermarket giants and winning

The concept of the traditional, community butcher isn’t dead just yet. You would think that independent butchers would struggle against the buying power and attraction of large supermarkets. But that’s not true in Weston, NSW. John Pearson’s Meats began in 1983 as a small street front rental and has grown into a thriving retail business with their own smallgoods factory onsite. It’s a family-run business that not only provides quality meats to locals, but also supplies local establishments and offers catering services.

“The availability and quality of our products means we get great word-of-mouth benefits,” says John. “I love going into supermarkets and seeing that they just can’t compete with how we do business, with the cuts, or the way we can personalise what we do for our customers. If a customer wants their meat a certain way, they get it exactly how they want.”

The main focus of John Pearson’s Meats is their retail outlet, but their skills, experience and quality produce have seen them branch out into catering and supplying local businesses. “Approximately 15% of the business is wholesale,” John says. But the heart of the business is their butchery, where they take pride in focusing on customer convenience.

“We have ready-packaged products that customers can freeze immediately without having to portion it into separate packaging first,” he explains. “Creating convenience for our customers is an important part of what we do.”

John and his family have plans to expand both areas of their business in the future. “We’re continuing to grow with the current economy and times,” he says. “Keeping up to date with current TV cooking shows is important.”

Although the business is largely family-run, John also says finding reliable employees is one of the main challenges the business faces. “Hiring responsible and efficient employees can be tricky,” he explains. “We’re starting to overcome that by having prospective employees sit literacy and numeracy tests during their interviews. We want them to be part of the family.”

As someone who’s been in business for over 30 years, John has some advice and business tips for anyone thinking of starting a business themselves:

  • Never assume – “always double check. Someone gave me that advice, and it works – the business growth I’ve experienced is proof of that.” Leaving things to chance means you’re likely to make more mistakes, and this will damage your credibility. When you’re competing against big, commercial outlets, you can’t afford any slip-ups.
  • Supplying local establishments – “be sure to set your prices right. Always provide good quality products and professional service.” This is the key to getting and maintaining repeat business. They’re not going to keep coming back if they can get a better deal elsewhere, so it’s important that you’re ahead of the curve with your pricing, your products and your service.
  • Expect the unexpected – “be prepared to work hard. It’s worth it when you and your family reap the rewards at the other end.”
  • If you employ staff, have clear guidelines on minimum criteria, and even if the person is the nicest person on the planet, don’t employ them if they can’t do the basics. Test the person, bring them into your business and trial them, even just for a few hours.
  • If you have large competitors like I have in supermarkets, find out what they can’t do, or find hard to do, and then as a smaller business you can work around them, such as custom orders that we can do on a daily basis, they wouldn’t have the ability to manage.

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