High rent and rates force controversial Sudbury butcher to shut shop

JBS Butchers in Sudbury.

JBS Butchers in Sudbury. - Credit: Archant

A traditional butcher who hit the headlines after his shop window display of unplucked pheasants, partridges and rabbits was branded “gruesome and distasteful” claims he has been forced to close because of crippling rents, business rates and competition from supermarkets.

JBS Family Butchers in Sudbury’s Borehamgate Precinct survived the furore over its controversial window scenes, which peaked with a whole deer carcass being displayed next to a sign reading ‘Who shot Bambie?’.

This prompted a backlash from animal lovers which eventually led the shop’s owner John Sawyer to tone down the displays.

But according to Mr Sawyer, 55, this had no bearing on his decision to shut up shop. Instead he blames an annual rent of £13,000 and £6,500 in business rates coupled with additional bills of around £12,000 which have made it virtually impossible for the business to turn a profit.

Mr Sawyer also said it had become increasingly difficult to compete with supermarkets selling meat for lower prices than he could buy it for.

The shop traded for the last time on Saturday and yesterday while they were clearing the premises, Mr Sawyer’s wife Caroline said: “We really didn’t want to leave but it’s just a case that the rent and rates are so high, we are running at a loss and we obviously can’t continue to do so.

“It’s a real shame and John is really upset about it. We will be talking to the landlords over the next couple of months to see if we can get any sort of reduction in rent. We have cleared out the stock and if we are unable to come to an arrangement with the landlord, that we will remain permanently closed.”

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Richard Stevenson, technical manager of the National Federation of Meat and Food Traders said many of the UK’s 5,500 independent butchers were facing similar circumstances. However he said the rate of decline was slowing, with several of the trade’s newest recruits coming up with ways to diversify and make their businesses profitable.

He said: “Traditional high street butchers tend to pay a larger proportion of their takings in rent and rates than most other trades and the supermarkets have lots of advantages in this respect by being in out of town locations.

“Some family butchers are in a difficult position where they don’t have any flexibility so the have to close.

“But it’s certainly not all doom and gloom for traditional butchers. Some are opting to set up in farm shops or garden centres, while others are changing their retail mix and are becoming food emporiums with things like ready meals.

“Internet sales and social media is also giving them an equal bite of the cherry.”

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