Dunfermline Athletic


Monday, 30th Nov 2009

The Royal Highland Winter Fair champion is heading for the Royal Family's Christmas dining table if buyer and SFMTA member, Paul Conway has anything to do with it.

Paul, who owns four shops under the Pauls Quality Butchers banner was a first time buyer at the Winter Fair and was thrilled to have Hugh Dunlop's champion steer knocked down to him for £3100.

Purchasing the 675kg home-bred three-quarter Limousin steer is the highlight of Paul's career so far and he said, “We want to get the message to our customers that we only buy the best and the Winter Fair showcases the best primestock from all over the UK.”

The royal family connection comes in from Paul's inauspicious start in business; a £4000 loan from the Princes Scottish Youth Business Trust kick-started his career and he has never looked back.

Paul said, “I owe everything to the PSYBT, without its help I could never have got started in my own business. I have met Prince Charles and I would love to offer him the rib roast from this fantastic beast.”

He went on to explain that in 2002 when he was only 23, heavily in debt and struggling to provide for a wife and young family, he had the choice of sequestration or raising the cash to rent the Malcolm Allan butchers shop in Kilsyth.

He went to the PSYBT as a last resort, got the loan to rent the premises and has never looked back. He said, “The PSYBT has changed my life, it is not just the money it lends, but the advice and aftercare which is so important. My mentor is Sheila Devlin Thorpe, who came from a retailing background with Marks and Spencer and she has been invaluable to me.”

Paul was set on the road to become a butcher when he got a weekend and after-school job washing up in Malcolm Allans at the age of 13. He did his apprenticeship with James Allan but struggled to make ends meet on a butcher's wage.

The loan and an understanding manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland allowed him to open in Kilsyth under his own name and that first year he was projected a £70,000 turnover.  Hard work and a way with customers meant Paul achieved a £230,000 turnover in his first year and after 18 months he had not only paid off all his debts, but bought his shop and a house.

Initially he bought boxed beef which has a quick turnover but progressed to buying sides of beef and then to dealing with farmers such as John McKerrow, who supplied him with quality beef.  He has only been buying at live auctions for a year and he said, “I am learning all the time, but so many people have helped me along the way, and I am much more confident now in selecting the type of animal I want for my shops.”

This is Paul's seventh year in business, he now has four shops, in Kilsyth, Bonnybridge, Grangemouth and Kirkintilloch,
all sporting his distinctive blue and cream branding, and his turnover this year is projected at £1.6million.

He specialises in buying heavier cattle at 600 to 700kg and was delighted with his Winter Fair purchases. The champion killed out at 71.3% and was graded E3 while the other four beasts he bought killed out at between 68 and 70%.

Paul said, “The quality and consistency provided by a butchers shop is second to none and far superior to a supermarket which has to deal in volume.”

Having started his business in the wake of BSE and foot and mouth and since then coped with Ecoli, bird flu and blue tongue scares, he firmly believes that building a relationship based on trust and quality with customers is all important. He said:-

"A butcher's shop is a meeting place, somewhere to enjoy a bit of gossip and banter while buying quality products and I believe every main street should have one.”

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