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Katy Smith’s Pelynt Stores in Cornwall brings in customers from miles around with its award-winning butchers. Toby Hill finds out what retailers can learn from their expansion plans
Located in a quiet Cornish village, Pelynt Stores is a small convenience store built around one unique selling point: an award-winning butchers, which attracts custom from across the country.
“My dad was originally a butcher in Gloucestershire, but he and my mum wanted to start their own business,” says Katy Smith. “We happened to be here on holiday and he spotted a shop that was part convenience store, part butchers. He said: ‘If that ever comes up for sale, I want it.’”
Shortly afterwards, it did, and the family moved to Pelynt in 1988. Today, the store employs three full-time butchers and an apprentice.
As well as serving customers, it’s built up a thriving delivery service – both to another store in the nearby town of Looe, and to the catering industry, encompassing restaurants, hotels and nursing homes. At peak times, it sends out 10 deliveries a day.
The butchery is managed by Katy’s dad, Joe, and her brother, Thomas. All the meat comes from the south-west, predominantly Devon and Cornwall, sourced from wholesalers including Weddel Swift and M&W Meats. Sausages and burgers are made in store. “Last year, my nephew hand-pressed more than 10,000 burgers,” Katy says.
As a result of their efforts, the shop’s reputation has spread rapidly.
“We have people on holiday who purposely travel to us for their meat. Some even fill up boxes to take with them before going home.”
Sales are strong year-round, but peak during barbecue season, when the store makes its own kebabs and offers a range of glazes: sticky barbeque, tandoori, sweet chilli, spicy salt and pepper. Throughout the year, Katy says, the butchery brings in excellent margins.
“You make more money out of meat than you can from an entire convenience store. We get much better margins on our hand-pressed burgers than we ever could on mainstream brands.”
While the butchers provides a unique selling point, the rest of the store is thriving, too.
“When my parents started, they wanted a one-stop-shop business, where we provide everything you need for your tea tonight,” Katy says.
Accordingly, the store has seven metres of frozen food, and a range of groceries supplied through Premier, which has “always provided excellent support”, according to Katy.
Alcohol is another key category. Customers can choose between 74 varieties of gin, cider from Cornish Orchards and real ales from a nearby brewery.
The family sources a range of other local products, including Cornish Tea and Cornish Coffee, as well cakes, bread and rolls from a local baker.
“It’s a great partnership; we phone the bakery in the evening to tell them what we need for the following day,” Katy says.
Bakery products are situated by a Nescafé & Go machine, which Katy plans to replace with a more premium bean-to-cup set-up.
Also important is the business philosophy. “My dad has always made us be chirpy when we’re in the store, to make sure we’re approachable,” says Katy. “As bosses we’re laid-back and enjoy a laugh – it’s all about having fun.”
Still, butchery remains the heart of the store – and the bosses have big plans to boost sales over the next year.
The store currently ships meat across the country by way of its online shop, O’Keeffe Butchers.
“We use DPD as our shippers and have recyclable cardboard packaging with a foil inlay containing a frozen gel pack,” says Katy “Once sealed, it then keeps cool for 72 hours and is all done by next-day delivery.”
For the time being, the delivery side of the butchery business remains low-key. “We don’t want to push it and not fulfil people’s expectations,” Katy explains.
But the set-up is there, and the family intend to make a big push for online sales once the capacity to meet demand is in place.
Another plan is to use the butchery to fuel food to go. “We want to put in an extension so we can cook food in store,” says Katy.
“We want to make our own pies, pasties, sausage rolls, scotch eggs and black pudding.
“We also want to be able to make proper burgers, hot dogs and breakfast baps. We’d use all our own meat: we cure our own bacon, and if you get a steak baguette, it will be made with our high-quality steak.”
With plans such as these for the year ahead, the reputation of Pelynt Stores is only going to spread further.