Can you keep a secret?

I don’t want to startle you, or gives you a shock that sends you into a mind-melting breakdown, unable to cope, but... I have a secret that I need to share with you, so ssshhh! Nobody is listening? Are you sure? Yes? Ok here goes – Christmas Day is on the 25th of December!

And you have only got eight weeks to get it planned, so that it runs like clockwork. And depending where you stand on this, you have actually less time because Halloween and Bonfire night hit before Christmas and, if you are like us, Halloween is getting bigger than Christmas, year-on-year.

It is amazing how many of our quite sizeable clients, suddenly realise that Christmas comes at the end of December, despite the fact that it has been coming all year… and every year for quite a long time, a couple of thousand years or so, at the last guess. But on 1 December, it’s "Oh my God it’s Christmas, where did that come from?" Thankfully they tend to forget every year, so we then have to plan their forgetfulness into our production schedule and cross our fingers. I am quite sure they didn’t teach us this technique of production planning at management school!

A year or so ago, I wrote a rant article about keeping up product quality at Christmas, charging a fair price, and trying to make a fair margin within this three-month period ahead. A taster of the piece went like this: "We did a competitor sample check this week, (not from the North West may I add at this point). The last time the sausage rolls saw pork was when the pigs were flying overhead. And the mince pies – good Lord preserve us – the mince pie lid was at least 10mm thick, and that’s baked, with a mere smear of lookalike mincemeat at the bottom. No wonder they were priced at four for a pound… utter garbage. The bakers involved should be ashamed of themselves."

I appreciate that, when written, it was from an emotional view a point, a ‘craft baker’s opinion’ – I am not that naïve in knowing there are different markets and that different family budgets are having to be maintained. But when I see so-called bakery businesses advertising ‘high-quality products’ that are trying to exploit and capitalise on the very hard work and skills of real craft bakers, I see red!

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