Being in business for 100 years Scotts of Thrapston has weathered many storms including war and financial crashes, now in our centenary year the world is facing a fresh challenge with COVID-19.

We have taken some time to get in touch with several of our long standing equestrian business clients; Contessa Riding Centre and Wildwoods Riding Centre. Both have been in business since the 70s, and are some of the oldest stables we have been able to trace back that are still in use today, as shown here:

It’s been an interesting time and what many are learning, including these Riding Centres, is that this is now a great time to make our businesses work smarter and become more agile.

An established equestrian business can easily overlook changes that need to be made, doing the same things due to habit. It’s very likely things have not have been working well for some time, before this situation had arisen.

We hope these tips encourage all of you running an equestrian business to take a more objective look at your business model and procedures:

1. Break your customers down segment by segment and work out a detailed plan for your relaunch.  How can you serve them with the new constraints…if at all? What segments may you need to lose altogether or put on hold until you can serve them 100%.

2. Talk to customers and find out how their buying patterns might have changed? Those who are able to develop relationships with their main clients (including on an emotional level) and to achieve an intimate knowledge of their customers’ challenges, constraints, opportunities and aspirations will rebound in a stronger position.

3. Once you have a strategy that works for you and your key customers, decide how you will start to introduce staff back to the workplace. Can you take staff off the furlough scheme? What will you need to alter in working hours and shift patterns to make the environment safe? What items will you have to move and how will footfall have to flow to allow for safe movement around your site.

4. Define conditions for a safe experience for customers and proactively communicate about measures implemented that may not be visible to customers. For example equipment or facilities being sanitised before they use them. Prepare your facilities with sneeze guards for reception desks as well as floor and wall stickers to remind everyone about the 2 metre distancing. All of which can now be purchased freely online.

5. If you are still taking other payment types, can you ask customers for DD payments or bank transfers in advance for example? Setting up a membership scheme may help you positively position this – with other products or services bundled in to a package.

6. The crisis seems to have accelerated other underlying trends, including consumer demand for health, sustainability and local suppliers. Which is great news for equestrian businesses as they can tick these boxes. How can you creatively capitalise on this in your marketing? What new products could you now supply to your customer base?

7. Many riding schools are making changes which in the long term is likely to make entry to the sport harder for new people. This could lead to more people taking on their own horses without appropriate back up. How can you help to train beginners or potential new owners in a safe way, through distance learning?

8. Parents are also struggling with home schooling their children, so what support can you offer? Some of your clients may benefit from virtual help with some learning to break up the days.  Perhaps some pony club badges that children can work with you on via Facetime or platforms like Zoom depending on your IT skills?

9. If you need a cash injection to get you moving again, small businesses can now apply for a new 100% state-backed loan worth up to £50,000 that can be used for working capital or investment in your business. They come with no interest charged or repayments needed in the first 12 months.

10. The nation has had a lot of time for spring cleaning and tidying up our outside spaces. Most people have a good idea of what equipment, fixtures and fittings need to be replaced. This could be a great time to renew your windows and doors. We caught up with Debbie from Horse-Laundry.com during lock down.  She chose to install our doors at her stables after working with them in professional yards for the simple reason they were the best and knew they would last. Check out our Accessories range for further details.

11. Get creative in finding ways to thank your suppliers and regular delivery drivers during this time for keeping the horses basic needs met.

We are all going to be living under the shadow of a resurgence of the pandemic, and a transition into the ”next normal” will require us to focus on being agile to suit the changing market place.