With only nine weeks to go until Christmas, the proprietor of an Angus business is becoming increasingly concerned about turkey sales, which she says have plummeted due to the coronavirus outbreak.
If current restrictions continue, then it is unlikely we will be able to enjoy a traditional family celebration over the festive season – and that is a massive headache for Elizabeth Gray of the Corn Kist and Milton Haugh Farm Shop.
However, Elizabeth has come up with a plan for a “Turkeybank” which will see customers purchase their birds as they would normally, but then have them stored in the shop’s freezers ready to be picked up for some delayed festive fun.
Every year Elizabeth orders top quality free range turkeys and chickens from her normal supplier, this year ordering 100 birds from the business that raises in the region of 1,000.
But as we near the end of October, her normally bulging order book is almost empty and Elizabeth, 41, is worried of the implications for her business which has operated for the last two decades, with a huge bill requiring to be paid to her supplier.
Elizabeth took to social media in an effort to secure some orders, but business has been slow which could result in financial disaster.
Here we are in the middle of October. Our turkey and chicken books have been open for over two weeks with virtually…
“We have ordered 100 and we have only sold 10. The post alone on Facebook hit 27,000 people but that is all we have managed to sell,” she revealed.
“It’s trying times for everyone at the moment and everyone is thinking about their money, but we as a business have really got think about it. We have to plan ahead and start thinking about Christmas.
“The storage idea came about because the current rules at the moment would mean that people couldn’t have their families for Christmas. We are just trying to put things in place to help people and help us so that if things do change down the line and we can have a late Christmas as such.”
And for people who will be celebrating the big day in style, the shop has put together a pack with everything you need for a tasty December 25.
“We are trying to put everything together for a one-stop shop so that customers can pick their whole Christmas dinner up here. The way we were doing things at the start of lockdown was a contactless pick-up.
“We have a space near our shed where people drove up, opened their boot and then we put the whole order in the boot, so we are trying to get geared up again to do that for Christmas.
“We can’t really have a huge influx of people at the shop as sometimes around then there can be 30 or 40 people all trying to get into the shop at once on Christmas week. We are trying to do it so that it eases things for everyone so no one is panicking about being near a space with crowds.”
It's that time of year folks the turkey books are open for your orders. We are a one stop shop for main Christmas Dinner…
Included in the one-stop shop are: free range turkey, kilties/pigs in blankets, sausagemeat stuffing balls, bacon for your turkey, Elizabeth’s famous gravy, Brussels sprouts, potatoes, goose fat (for the roasties), an abundance of veg to roast and Aberfeldy oatmeal for skirlie.
Elizabeth’s annual turkey order is into three figures and they are normally all sold out.
She added: “We have cut back slightly from last year, but, on average we order around 100 or so every year and we have chickens as well. It’s worrying because if Christmas doesn’t go well this year that’s thousands and thousands of pounds that we are losing which, as a business as small as this, we cannot sustain.”
Safety, too, in these difficult times is of paramount importance and having the experience of a successful pick-up service during lockdown, Elizabeth knows customers can trust the operation, but she has real concerns which will be shared by businesses up and down the land during the pandemic.
“You know what it’s like at Christmas, the supermarkets are heaving and people are buying loads and loads of stuff which they don’t need. I am hoping that by seeing they can get all their Christmas dinner in one go it’s a safe place to come,” she added.
“I want people to feel safe coming here and the contactless pick-up worked really well for us during lockdown and every single slot was full for weeks, but now all these people have disappeared and we don’t know where they’ve gone.
“We are panicking, really panicking. The farm shop isn’t busy enough, the coffee shop is busier, but it could be busier and obviously we have had to take tables out for social distancing so we can’t fit as many in as we used to. It is day by day at the moment and it is worrying times.
“We have been here for 20 years and I employ 13 people, the majority are part-time but it is for the local people and also helps young girls who have weekend jobs which is essential for life development as it teaches them great social skills and responsibility. If you lose things like that then what have you got.”
While Elizabeth wants people to shop at Milton Haugh as a local business, she also practises what she preaches.
“I use nothing but local suppliers. All my bread is local from bakers in Arbroath and Carnoustie, my meat comes from an Arbroath butcher or a Forfar butcher, my milk comes from the dairy in Forfar, so I use local wherever I can get it. It’s a massive network we are in the middle of. My egg supplier is nearby too,” she said.
“Local people need to survive. We were the ones that were here for them. The supermarkets will survive because they have lots of money, but we don’t.
“We use the freshest of fresh here. The veg that we can get locally comes from the market. Otherwise, we are supplied by farms around here or in Fife. It is literally straight from the fields still covered in dirt, but people will go to the supermarket and buy something that is washed and packaged which adds to the carbon footprint. It is much better to buy local and buy fresh as you can really taste the difference.”