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How Cunningham’s has constructed its butchery enterprise into the County Down neighborhood | Evaluation & Options

How Cunningham’s has built its butchery business into the County Down community | Analysis & Features

James Cunningham feels as passionately about the area people as he does his personal butchery enterprise, which operates a meals corridor, steakhouse and butchery concessions in County Down.

When the meals corridor in Kilkeel was declared a winner within the Farm Store & Deli Present Retailer Awards this yr, he noticed it as a boon not only for his personal enterprise but in addition these round him.

“It has given an ideal enhance to us and different companies within the city,” Cunningham says. “It takes all companies working collectively to advertise the place they reside. One enterprise can’t be profitable until the entire city and surrounding space is doing properly.”

The household has been a part of the material of Kilkeel since 1919, when Cunningham’s great-grandfather opened a butcher’s store.

Present MD Cunningham had not initially deliberate to hitch the household enterprise, however noticed its potential whereas working there as he completed a grasp’s diploma in finance.

The corporate is run by him and his spouse Donna, alongside his brother, Christopher. Cunningham’s mom Bernadette, who’s a trainer, helps out behind the scenes, and his sisters Nicole and Rachael assist when wanted, particularly within the busy festive season.

The household has pushed a tenfold development within the enterprise up to now 12 years, with the variety of staff rising from three to 70. Along with the wholesale commerce, the retail operation includes two retailers in County Down: the flagship Cunningham Butchers, Meals Corridor & Steak Home in Kilkeel and a butcher’s store within the Quays Procuring Centre, Newry – in addition to three butchery concessions in Eurospar shops within the neighbouring city of Newcastle and Kilkeel.

A significant step within the development of the enterprise got here in 2010, when Cunningham’s started supplying pre-pack meats and deli produce to 2 Henderson Spar shops in Kilkeel.

“This was a difficult and daunting time as we had been bringing the enterprise into an space of retail that we had little to no expertise in,” says Cunningham.

The enterprise developed a system for checking present inventory ranges within the retailers each morning and tailoring manufacturing accordingly. This enabled it to extend the vary of merchandise it bought the supermarkets and its personal store, Cunningham provides. “Clients reacted properly to this and, as phrase unfold, footfall in our predominant store started to extend. We had been capable of then have a look at growing the variety of supermarkets we provided.”

By 2012 it was supplying an additional 11 stores, seven Henderson’s and 4 unbiased retailers.

Though gross sales had been rising quick within the shops, the primary Kilkeel store nonetheless accounted for the majority of gross sales, and in 2014 Cunningham purchased the adjoining website. This enabled the enterprise to broaden and create the meals corridor that as we speak features a butchery, deli, sizzling meals counter, bakery and a 50-cover steakhouse.

“Our new retailer structure was presumably the largest time drain we are going to ever undergo but in addition one of the vital necessary issues,” he says. “We had to verify the shopper’s journey across the store was pure and fulfilling. 

“We additionally had to make sure our workers had one of the best and most effective working atmosphere. For instance, the flooring in our kitchen slope barely away from the partitions to drains so cleansing is quick and efficient.”

The enterprise put in an EPoS system within the meals corridor that enabled it to find out the top-performing merchandise and have a look at what objects had been being purchased alongside one another.

“We have now now tailor-made a variety of traces into multibuy choices so clients can combine and match those who complement one another, which has been an enormous consider nearly doubling common buyer spend,” Cunningham says, including the EPoS system additionally allowed the enterprise to supply buyer loyalty playing cards.

In March 2019, Cunningham’s opened a second standalone retailer, within the Quays Procuring Centre, Newry, and in July 2021 opened the butchery concession in partnership with Henderson’s Retail in its new Eurospar in Newcastle. “Henderson’s are very conscious that their clients need familiarity and that they belief native manufacturers. That’s the place we are available in: we’ve got an ideal story to inform.”

All through the growth, native sourcing has remained on the core, with Cunningham’s utilizing beef and lamb from its personal farm and native farmers. Fruit & veg is delivered every day from Newcastle, in addition to an area producer in Kilkeel, and all potatoes are from native farms.


“This yr we leased a few of our personal land to an area farmer who’s promoting the potatoes direct to our store from our personal fields,” says Cunningham.

The enterprise additionally sources fish from the harbour in Kilkeel, simply 5 minutes’ stroll from the meals corridor. “We in flip provide almost all our fishing fleet with their meat and greens after they exit to sea, so it’s all in regards to the neighborhood working collectively.”

“Supporting the area people has so many advantages,” Cunningham insists. “It permits us to get the freshest and highest-quality substances, but in addition retains capital flowing within the cities. With city centres struggling throughout the UK, it’s our focus to assist our native cities prosper.”

The native produce is used within the 1,000 product traces produced by Cunningham’s recent each week. “All our merchandise are decided by our clients,” he says. “If they need one thing we don’t have, we are going to use our grasp butchers and cooks to discover a answer so the following time that buyer is available in, we could have what they’re in search of.”

Cunningham is clearly enthusiastic about his enterprise’s butchery heritage. “We’re capable of provide the standard and repair supermarkets can’t compete with,” he says. “All our beef bought over-the-counter remains to be taken in on the bone, the identical manner we’ve got accomplished it for 100 years.”

The introduction of a Himalayan salt chamber behind the butchery counter has enabled clients to see the dry ageing course of because it occurs.

“We are able to clarify the method and thru doing so are educating them in a manner not one of the large supermarkets can. It additionally provides a little bit of glamour. Clients purchase with their eyes and we, as butchers, ought to be so happy with our commerce and what we produce.”

The enterprise opens seven days every week, with 4 night time shifts every week, and a lot of the 70 full and part-time workers reside lower than 20 minutes from the store.

“By using native individuals, you might be bringing the entire neighborhood to your store,” says Cunningham. “So, many shoppers are on first-name phrases with workers.”

Workers improvement performs an necessary position, beginning with induction coaching. Workers obtain a well being and security booklet and undergo a PowerPoint presentation detailing “every little thing from saying good day to the shopper to the right way to clear the mincer”. All staff undergo stage three well being and hygiene coaching and are given the chance to go larger.

The corporate likes to advertise in-house and has a programme that permits workers to work by the ranks. Cunningham’s additionally operates an apprentice scheme by an area faculty, with 5 apprentices happening to get full-time employment up to now 5 years.

“We do common talks in our native major and secondary colleges showcasing the work put into our commerce, and hope to supply college students a pathway to butchery, which we really feel is without doubt one of the most fulfilling and expert trades,” Cunningham explains. 

Seeking to his personal future, he’s eager to proceed rising the household enterprise and plans to open extra retailers. “Regardless of the lengthy hours, few days off, sleepless nights, laborious work and dedication that come together with it, we adore it,” he says.

“We have now a model and a ardour for meals and can proceed to deliver it to neighbouring cities in our space, the place there are presently no butcher store choices.”

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