Bill remembers: early days indeed

Nov 18th, 2014 | By | Category: History, News

Bill WaringWell prior to the Mad Butcher’s radio marketing, Bill Waring was a star of the airwaves. We continue with our series on the early days of Waikato’s meat industry.

Part of the climb to our eventual healthy turnover was generated by our entry into radio advertising. One day I was standing in the Frankton Saleyards when I was approached by Colin Follas, who at that time was a breakfast announcer from the 1ZH radio station. Would I be interested in marketing on the radio airways?

As our retail shops were inside the coverage area of 1ZH I decided to give it a try.

Initially these commercial adverts were prepared on vinyl records and were played more as an image marketing. But this was not quite what I had in mind: I wanted marketing that was ‘NOW’. The logic was, if I made a good purchase at the Tuesday market, the next morning I could be selling via the radio.

While the first revision by professional scriptwriters was an improvement, it was still not quite what I wanted. I made my comments known and was challenged to write the script. When I found out that the challenging scriptwriter was a vegetarian, I said “Yes I will, and I will voice it myself also.”

The other local radio station, Radio Waikato, also wanted to be part of the scene. So each morning following the 8am news my meat retail specials were being marketed on both stations. This marketing was tempered with special prices and humour, the time slots on both stations getting listener attention. The announcers on each station appreciated the popularity of the moment, adapting to the interchange of smart dialogue.

Od time butchers on Victoria St.

Od time butchers on Victoria St. Photo: Perry Rice, Hamilton City Libraries

Early on, like the farmers who bypassed the country stores and saleyards for the city and Frankton, we had sold our country town operations, including Huntly, to concentrate on Hamilton.

Our initial effort was to join a ribbon of eight small shops that was eventually to grow to be Westfield Chartwell. Once again this was to compete with the Collingwoods, who had their business in the centre of the city.

Mr J Stewart, chairman of the South Auckland Master Butchers Association for many years, stated that there were 52 butcher shops in Hamilton during the 1950s: eight in the inner city, made up of five in Victoria St, and one each in Garden Place, Hood St and Ward St). The Ward St shop was built just after the Napier earthquake by a Mr Shattock, a very solid building, like an aircraft hangar, which I leased for ten years. We used its size for larger bulk and contract sales, as well as retail.

Hamilton’s meat retail competition was mainly based on price and staff personalities. At this stage there was none of the hard specialising that developed when Affco made their staff butcher shop available to the general public. One wonders under today’s Fair Trading Act if Affco, having the deed of delegation to slaughter stock for Hamilton butchers, and holding a wholesale licence, would have been permitted to offer its retail service to the public, when their shop had been established and licensed only to supply their staff.

Most of the shopping public were eaters of meat and the meat retailers enjoyed a profitable existence without needing any great effort at shop modernising. The real wake-up call came when Frank Collingwood, having moved from Te Hoe and purchased the Garden Place Butchery from Geo and Terry Jew, modernised the shop in a manner not previously seen in Hamilton. The attraction of this shop plus the proximity to a major bus terminal soon lifted it to be the number one shop in town. This business however was still conducted on the personal service system.

Pre-wrapped meat was attempted by a Mr Perry in a nearby meat shop in Victoria St, but was not continued with, perhaps because the public was not yet ready to accept it. Customer acceptance of pre-wrapped meat did not arrive until Edwin (‘Win’) Abel, following the supermarket systems of Foodtown in Otahuhu, opened Abel’s Supermarket in Hillcrest and later Glenview. Many super and mini markets followed quickly, often using meat as a customer drawcard, recouping their profits with other lines.

Our retail shops that supplied pre-wrapped meat to meat concessions such as Farmers Trading Company had been required to have a Domestic Packing House (DPH) License. Most supermarket operators chose to control the meat sections themselves.

‘Three Guys’ chose to concession the meat areas to master meat operators. This system enabled a smaller area to be allocated to the retailing of meat as much of the preparation was carried out at the concessionaire’s other operations. This gave further room for additional supermarket product lines to be retailed. At this time we also supplied a meat section in the expanding Hamilton K Mart fruit and vegetable operation in Kahikatea Drive.

In all at this time, Waring Meats held the Three Guys concession in Hamilton, our meat shops at Chartwell Mall (the first perimeter serving counter in NZ, selling direct onto a mall walkway), the Ward Street contracting base, a shop in Grand View Mall (a bad mistake, ahead of its time and too close to Dinsdale), plus a processing plant at Ruakura Research Station, where we worked in conjunction with the two Meat Research divisions. This association lasted for 14 years. Our best annual retail turnover (1989) of $3.2 million was reached during this period. What would that read now at today’s prices.

Chapter One of this series can be found here. Two more to follow!

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2 Comments to “Bill remembers: early days indeed”

  1. Caz Warner says:

    I had the privilege of writing and producing Bill’s radio commercials for him at both 1ZH and Radio Waikato many moons ago (but not as far back as the vinyl record era!) He would come in weekly for a cuppa and a chat about his requirements and we’d suss it out together. On one occasion Bill said he was inundated with sausages … “Aarrgh! Coming out of my ears!”… and needed to move them fast. We concocted a riotous commercial which cried out for help and dropped the price to rock bottom! Sold out in two days!
    I remember Bill fondly … a true gentleman, humble and down to earth with a great sense of humour.

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