Taking a butchery online - with Barry Kerrigan, MD & Kerrigans

Taking a butchery online - with Barry Kerrigan, MD & Kerrigans
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Kerrigans Butchers will be 50 years in business in 2023, so we're kind of making plans for being 50 years, which is a big milestone, as we know, in a small family business. Today we catch up with Barry Kerrigan.

I am joined today by my best friend, best ever client, the one and only, Barry Kerrigan.

Barry, give us an introduction on Kerrigans.

My father started this back in ‘73 so I'm second generation butcher, I left school and went straight into the family business 1993 for a summer holiday and here I am in 2021 still on the summer holiday experience. We are independent and we've got five locations, and back in 2016, we ventured into e commerce and it's been an absolute roller coaster since.

Kerrigans will be 50 years in business in 2023, so we're kind of making plans for being 50 years, which is a big milestone, as we know, in a small family business.

Let's talk about how you got into it in commerce because this must have been a massive transition coming from traditional brick and mortar retail going online. Why did you decide to do this?

Obviously ecommerce is tricky, in our business you have to add in the extra element of perishable food and time sensitivity and then the packaging to make sure that your product is kept in the best possible condition.

First of all, I had a big interest in technology, second of all, we launched a collection of products in a store called Fuel for Fitness. 

Before falling in love, I was a typical Iris lad: plenty of pints, plenty of takeaways, I was overweight but quite happy. Then fell in love and we had a beautiful baby, Emily, and that kind of kickstarted my little fitness journey. I was going to the gym, talking to people in the gym and the most popular question was: “what do you eat?” because, as we know, if you're training 80% of it is your meals, you can't train on a bad diet.

You can train six times a week but if you're not eating well, you're never going to get the results you want. So everyone was on chicken, broccoli and rice and I started to mess around with some chicken, mince and turkey, we ended up with a range of turkey burgers that people really enjoyed. Turkey is a very high protein product and low in fat, and it takes any kind of flavor as well because it's quite a bland protein, so you can make beautiful products from chicken and turkey. 

I started to hand free meals to people from the gym for them to try and there was a massive reaction so we started to add more flavors and different products, started doing take-away dishes. We made a healthier version of the chicken tikka masala, which is probably the number one dish in Ireland and then we got to know a couple of people who were big on social media in Ireland, they started to post about us and so many people from all around the country started to come to our tiny little shop, people traveling all around the country filling their cars with meat, it was great. It went on for a couple of years and then we started with the deliveries in 2016. That's how it kind of started, it wasn't like a three months plan or a five year plan, It was just basically listening to our customers.

I can honestly say we obviously produce a lot better now than we were back in 2016 but we still have a long way to go because ecommerce is so different to retail brick and mortar.

Who are the people that are coming into the store at the moment?

Number one are the families, we do have families come to us online but number one in our stores are definitely families. Our ideal customer  in shop would be a family with maybe 2-3 kids because they will be cooking regularly at home, they will support the local businesses. But we also have other kind of personas such as men coming on the weekends who want a big Tomahawk steak, we have the barbecuers, lots of different personas.

A lot of people say butchery is dying, a lot of the independent stores are closing where you seem to have been able to thrive. What are the good butchers doing and how are they innovating?

I think if you're not innovating, you're just going to go backwards. I’ve never been in competition with another butcher, I believe the more good quality meat from independent butchers we have in the country, the better it will be for our industry. So our main competition is against the supermarkets and unfortunately, it’s going back through the recession, over the last 18 months people are watching their pennies going through the pandemic. They might see better value of going to Lidl or Aldi and you know, you can't compete against these companies on price. So you have to be doing something different to make your customers come to you for quality, innovative products.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t been good for our butchers in Ireland, in the last two years, 120 independent butches have closed their doors. I hope the good ones will stay open forever. 

It sounds like there must be a lot of education that you need to give to the consumers in store.

Yes but it’s very simple you know, we don't import any of our meat, we try and offer the best quality we can but at a very fair price. We then back that up with the best customer service you can in a really, really clean environment. Our mission statement is quality, fair price, amazing customer service, knowledgeable staff in a really clean environment.

I think word of mouth is so important for retail as we wouldn't have the budget of the big supermarkets for ads and newspapers or radio. 

Do you find it overwhelming trying to gain momentum in the ecommerce side?

You know, very rarely you build a relationship with a customer online, where in store you get that personal interaction, you build up the relationship, we get to know the customers and their families you don’t get the same online. So that's what we're trying to break down in our email so that  we get to know our online customer better the same way we do in store.

So what are you doing to build your relationship with online customers?

One thing I've started this year is a newsletter from me to my core group of online customers, it's nothing fancy, just a very simple email purely text, only coming from me as if you're standing there in front of me in the shop. Just telling my customers what's going on in my personal life, what’s going on in Kerrigans behind the scenes, new products that we are working on, the kind of stuff I would tell you if you’d come in my shop. I don't know how effective it's going to be for them but that's my strategy for this year.

It seems that many people are turning away from meat and we've seen you bringing out the oat bean burgers in the last year. Is this going to be a focus view? And do you think over butchers will need to evolve and offer products like this?

I think again it’s all about listening to the customers. There have been documentaries or Netflix that people can relate to and it has been a big push from I suppose the the vegan community in getting their story out.  I have had people coming in saying they still eat meat but their kids have watched this program and don’t want to eat meat so I needed to have an option for this customer. So Yes, we are butchers but when I think of Kerrigans, I would say we're a fresh food company because we offer a wider selection of food, not only meat.

But again, that comes around to an education piece, people might feel like they go and save the planet by not eating meat while in reality it’s about eating local meat, that is sourced properly, having a good balance where you eat red meat, white meat and fish and then have some no-meat days. I don't think by not eating meat you are going to save the Planet.

What do you think about concepts like regenerative agriculture?

It’s  definitely something that's gonna be all about getting our carbon footprint down. 

What we can do in our farming practices that can help us get our carbon footprint down, it has to be looked at.

We rely so much on our exportation of animals, like 95% of of the animals that we produce in this country are exported so if we can have that quality of food and then back it up  saying we are carbon neutral, it's definitely part of the future for sure.

What are the challenges in terms of delivery? So what are some of the core differences then?

The online customer has definitely a higher expectation of the delivery. So you can imagine you come into the shop and for whatever reason, the packaging got damaged on the way home and It's no big deal, although It's never happened in 50 years. But that happens once or twice a week for our online customers and you know, they're quite annoyed. So just goes to show you how much we have to invest in our delivery and the whole unboxing experience.

How has the transition been from WooCommerce to Shopify?

It's a pleasure to be on Shopify compared to WooCommerce. I suppose because I had so many different add ons on WooCommerce and I was looking for a lot of development work and even all those add ons do not well support some ecommerce. While with Shopify if you have a problem, the customer service is insane. It's a little more expensive when you add in all the apps but for the peace of mind, for the speed, for the checkout experience it’s a no brainer. I am very happy with where we are not with Shopify and Klaviyo.

What are some of the core software that you use?

We have Klaviyo, Smile.io that we use for the loyalty set-up, we have a huge open rate for smile emails as opposed to our regular, non smile customers in our main database. So definitely the smile customers are a little community of Kerrigans and they are our brand advocates and I think people appreciate collecting points, getting free delivery and getting money off the shopping. And we do really give priority to those customers letting them know that we really appreciate them.So what are the best sellers in Kerrigans at the moment in store and online?Online We're still famous for our turkey burgers and we launched a new flavor recently while in store, depending on the time of year, we're just coming at a barbecue season now so our wagyu burgers are starting to take off but also the fundamentals like mince, chicken fillets. And again, it's just about being consistent with them, making sure when anytime you buy one of our top sellers it's going to be a good experience and it's going to be what you and your family need. 

Thank you so much for your time.

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