Booker will next month begin a second wave of butchery training.

The wholesaling giant has already trained more than 40 staff in butchery over the past 12 months as it attempts to address a shortage of butchers in the trade. "Due to the success of the initiative and interest from colleagues we are currently planning further courses starting in September," said Booker sales director for catering Ron Hickey.

"Booker has developed a complete training programme specially designed to fill the skill gap and ensure each branch has an experienced butcher."

Those who elected to undertake further training could progress to become butcher managers, he said, adding that thousands of customers relied on Booker's in-branch butchery every day.

The wholesaler has also extended the opening times of its butchery counters to evenings and weekends, and two years ago launched a pre-packed fresh meat range for independent retailers.

Meanwhile, Booker has launched an EPoS system for its Premier retailers following an extensive trial that boosted margins by up to 3%, according to Booker.

The new system identifies slow-moving lines and automatically lists new products, promotions and price changes.

"We have ensured this is the best solution to help increase turnover, profitability and stock control," said Steve Fox, Booker's sales director for retail.