A Public Procurement Parable – The Two Butchers (Part 3)

Part 3

(Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here)

... 18 months passed and in Farnberley, the mutterings had grown louder and louder, from Councillors and others. Not only were the prices in the Jones’ shop 10% higher than a year before, but service to their institutional and corporate customers like the council had become unreliable. Some of the 50 individual  locals had pulled out from the commitment scheme, complaining that Jones just wasn’t offering a good choice of products any longer. “They’ve got complacent, that’s the problem,” said the buyer at the Council. But still some worried that the town would lose its last butcher if they didn’t keep supporting the business.

Meanwhile, over in Camborough, not all of the Wilson family’s ideas had worked, but the cookery demonstrations had proved a huge hit, as had daughter Victoria’s homemade “eccentric sausages” – including vegetarian varieties. Rhubarb and ginger flavour, anyone? Indeed, after she was featured on the local BBC TV news one night, she had gathered quite a fan-club and even a Twitter following. Her sister joked that clearly she was going to be “the next Nigella”.

Soon after that, when their younger daughter went off to university, the business was doing well enough to take on two apprentices – which was good for local employment as well, as Martin pointed out in an interview with the local (now online) newspaper.

“We realised we weren’t just competing with the supermarket meat counter – we were competing with people buying ready meals or take-aways”, he said.  “And of course firms from all over the place who might want to supply our local hospital, schools and so on. But we can’t just compete on price on everything – we had to think about innovation, how we can be different and win on other things, like our emphasis on service and on the provenance of our products. And the sausages of course”!

Shortly after that, following an unhappy incident of food-poisoning in the local school, the Farnberley council lost patience and announced that they would be putting their meat contract out to tender given the issues they were having with Jones. To no-one’s surprise, Wilsons won the contract, and six months later, Charles Jones put his shop on the market.

Many in Farnberley thought it would become another take-away, but that was not to be. In fact, residents were delighted when two months later, the shop re-opened – Wilson and Daughters, as it was now called, had their second branch, which proved to be just as successful as the first. And as Martin said, “who knows - one day Vicky might be running a business with a family butcher in a hundred towns across the country. And everybody will be eating our rhubarb sausages!”


And the four morals of our story are:

  • Competition is good for citizens, taxpayers and consumers
  • Successful innovation is the only guaranteed way for businesses to survive and thrive
  • Protectionist actions rarely help the consumer or the taxpayer – and often don’t even help the direct beneficiaries in the long term
  • And if you do have a good local independent business, cherish it!

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