Published: 06:00, 13 May 2019
| Updated: 13:13, 13 May 2019
“Give us a try” says a town centre butcher - as Tesco confirms it is closing food counters at several stores across Kent.
Meat, fish and hot delicatessen counters will close at branches including Ramsgate, Ashford Crooksfoot and Whitstable today as part of a shake-up affecting 90 stores - which will see thousands of jobs axed.
All three counters are closing at Whitstable's popular Tesco Extra in Millstrood Road - prompting concerns customers will be left with a limited choice and forced to buy pre-packaged goods.
Tesco declined to comment on the impact the closures could have upon plastic waste.
But Jim Holness - owner of Jim’s Butchers - says he hopes the move will encourage residents to shop locally, where plastic-free alternatives are available.
“It’s probably of benefit to Tesco to close their counters, but it’s beneficial to customers to shop in a local butcher or baker or fishmonger,” said the 42-year-old, who has worked in the high street for 25 years.
“You want meat cut thinner or cut thicker? We can do that, no problem. If someone only fancies four sausages for their dinner and half a pound of mince - rather than buying half-a-kilo of pre-packed mince and a pack of eight sausages at the supermarket - that’s fine.
“The closure of the counters is a positive thing for the high street - it will have a positive impact, but sadly I don’t know how big the impact will be. Customers are creatures of habit.”
He says plastic-free packaging and friendly human interaction are among other benefits a butcher can offer.
“We’ve started wrapping meat in paper, which is obviously beneficial because it doesn’t have lots of plastic packaging so it’s better for the environment,” he said.
“Some people bring their own tupperware tub instead.
“Currently, people have to ask if they want things wrapped in paper but I’m hopefully going to switch to fully environmentally friendly packaging in future.
“Another big thing is the human contact you get - the one-to-one chat.
“I think a lot of people do come to us because of that.
“It’s important - particularly if you’re elderly or living alone. It’s nicer than just getting your meat off a refrigerator shelf.
Mr Holness says his store also offers cheaper prices for some products than supermarkets.
He said: “We’re probably slightly cheaper than supermarkets on quite a few things as well. I sell half-a-dozen large free range eggs for a pound - I have customers that literally just come in for the eggs and maybe to have a chat.
“We make all our sausages ourselves on site - sometimes we’ll do 20 different types, including gluten-free.“What I’d say to people in Whitstable who might be disappointed about the counters closing is, ‘Come along and give us a try - shop local, and see what you think.’”
Tesco did not confirm how many jobs will be affected at the Millstrood Road store.
A spokesman said: “We will be doing all we can to help colleagues affected by these changes, including offering alternative roles with Tesco wherever possible.”
This story was updated 1.10pm: Tesco has confirmed counters at its store in Broadstairs are not closing.