The premises occupied by Eastwoods butchers at 15 Gravel Path Berkhamsted have been a butcher’s shop for approximately 150 years. The current owner, Keith Smith, purchased the business from Norman Eastwood in 1987.
It can be challenging to bring traditional businesses into line with modern shopping habits. Over the last thirty years Berkhamsted has lost four of its five butcher shops even while seeing a substantial increase in population of the town.
Determined to keep Eastwoods sustainable, an online store to make the shop more contemporary and meet the demands of an increasingly busy clientele has been developed.
The new website was launched on 9 March, just two weeks before the Covid-19 crisis began to take hold. Rather than having time to adjust, staff were faced with providing a new service that met the Government’s guidelines on social distancing and a delivery service for those self-isolating or vulnerable. Their response and attitude have been commendable as they have kept up with the demand under incredibly challenging circumstances.
Many normally busy families were now at home. Life changed rapidly for everyone, and Eastwoods became aware of a growing desire to shop locally, with people showing huge support for local businesses.
As well as quickly adopting online ordering, they were delighted to find that customers managed all the changes in the shop with great humour and common sense, readily accepting the social distancing measures put into place to protect everyone.
Customers’ goodwill and cooperation extended even further. Eastwoods only offered a limited delivery service when the new website was launched, but with the sudden demand found that they needed to do deliveries every day. When they appealed to customers to ‘click and collect’ in order to prioritise delivery slots for the vulnerable and self-isolating, the response was as generous as had been encountered in the shop. It has allowed Eastwoods to offer and maintain daily deliveries of fresh food to those who need it most locally.
Owner Keith Smith said: ‘The increased demand for our service has been a bonus for this most traditional of shops. After the closure of Gravel Path for four weeks due to the renovation of the adjacent historic canal bridge the business was under severe financial pressure. Eastwoods has been part of Berkhamsted life for many years, maybe these changes to everyone’s lives and their priorities will see a new era for businesses like Eastwoods.’
In the end, despite the challenges faced by the shop and within the wider perspective of the challenges faced nationally, there has been a small silver lining. Part of Berkhamsted’s landscape for 150 years and committed to supporting local, rare breed and British producers, this traditional business has become viable and vital to its community again.