Change and produce new products: we know we have to do both. Yet when I look at our end-of-year figures, what do I find? Yes, you guessed it, all our top sellers are the old lines and the vast majority of our cash comes from those.
When I think of the huge amount of time we spend playing around trying to perfect a new line and travelling all over the country stealing all our betters’ ideas, we still end up with the same old figures every year and the volume and cash sales of the good old standbys lead the list by a mile.
So what should we do? The vast amount of time we put into new lines is in no way compensated by a comparable increase in sales. Yet we still feel we have to do something different or we will be dull and uninteresting to our regular customers.
We cannot be the only bakery in the country whose customers stick to the same products year after year, yet we feel a sense of rejection when our customers do not want to eat our new products, into which we have put so much care and love.
Rather like in the 1950s, when you paid to take a girl to the pictures, bought her an ice cream tub, put brilliantine on your hair and all you got for it at the end of the evening was a quick kiss and the immortal words: "Dad said I have to be indoors by 10.30." By the way, the expenditure for that exquisite evening out could be as high as 25p - not an insignificant sum in those days to waste on just a kiss.
Yet I digress. Why can we not discover that elusive product that our customers will buy and eat in vast quantities? Maybe it is because tastes may only change every 20 years and that is a heck of a long time to keep producing something customers do not want.
During my lifetime, there are three types of food that have taken off - tinned, frozen and takeaway - and we have jumped on the bandwagon of the latter.
Without takeaway, we would not survive and that appears true of everyone I speak to. Going back to my original point, we are constantly producing new fillings for bake-off and yet not one has ever come close to the major sellers in our area - sausage rolls, Cornish pasties, cheese & onion pasties - which between them account for 80% of our savoury sales, while the other 20 lines produce the extra 20%.
Easter has fast become just another week, with nothing like the sales of hot cross buns we did even 10 years ago. In fact, I would be embarrassed to tell you how few hot cross buns we made for Good Friday this year. The reason must be that, as we all start making hot cross buns in January or February, by the time Easter rolls around, the excitement has already gone from the product.
The day must be fast approaching when we forget about Bank Holidays and stop making Christmas cake and all the little fancy novelty lines. Our sales would certainly not show any loss, I am sure, while savouries continue to thrive.