Opportunities open as lockdown ends

How riding centres can benefit from staycations

Let us look at some numbers and facts first:

In November 2020 Natural England said 43% of their survey respondents said that visiting the countryside has become even more important to their wellbeing.
Over 31% of adults said they were exercising more outdoors.
Scientists have said 120 minutes per week with nature is associated with good health and wellbeing.
(Information from CLA Feb 2021)

Health and mental wellbeing
This year, large swathes of the population have been deprived of nature, and 80% of children agreed that being with nature made them feel happy.

Equine Businesses – why does this matter?
It has been well documented that staycations will be in high demand this year, and according to the CLA, probably for the next 5 years as well.

Green social prescribing – NHS
‘The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of being outdoors to people’s mental and physical health, as well as the inequality of access to green space. The NHS Long Term Plan commits to significantly expanding the number of social prescribing link workers in primary care, and we are on track to exceed our commitment to 1,000 additional link workers by April 2021. Social prescribing and community-based support enable GPs, other health and care practitioners and local agencies to refer people to a link worker who gives people time and focuses on what matters to the individual. For some people this will be green social prescribing, which links them to nature-based interventions and activities.’

The growing and pent-up number of visitors is an outstanding opportunity for all riding centres. You do not have to be in beauty spots or AONB regions. Green spaces outside cities and towns will provide the attraction that people have been craving. Any riding centres offering a diverse range of healthy and exciting exercise options will be able to draw upon this demand.

So, well packaged and marketed services to suit a broad demographic will capture the town and city dwellers yearning for nature. Centres providing onsite accommodation or signposting local options will have the advantage of repeat business through the year.

Consider not only horse-riding packages, but horse contact and care modules, nature walks, dog walking areas and tracks, equine photography. Walking and rambling areas and local footpaths and bridleways are an attraction. For the nimble footed, centres offering snacks, food and drinks and even wedding venues will all provide a further draw for the green space adventurer.

It just needs a carefully thought-out plan, that diversifies the present activities without competing with those activities. The plan needs to include all business considerations such cash flow, pricing, marketing, sales, and the requisite employee skills. Engage your staff and customers and by taking them along with you, the centre will be better placed to produce positive and successful income streams. Note, this does not apply solely to riding schools. Any equine yard can attract increased footfall and therefore much needed revenue.

Perceived problems
Planning –
Ensure any diversification meets current business use consent or apply for change of use. Temporary event notices may provide the change needed in the interim.
Finance –
Although some new services, if based on core activities, may not need expenditure, cash flow planning to include marketing costs for example will be an important consideration. New markets may well require more detailed cash planning.
Access to skills and training – Plan ahead in case additional skills are required such as retail, event management, catering and so on.
Privacy – If increased intensive customer interaction is envisaged, then liaise and communicate with existing customers, liveries for example, to allay any concerns they may have.
Lack of relevant business skills – All skills required in this blog can be supplemented by EBC including requisite market research and marketing skills.

Wide ranging, long term opportunities can be exploited in this sector and margins are high for well managed services. A well thought out plan and cash flow forecast linked to a sales and marketing plan will deliver profitability in a short time frame.

Equine Business Consultancy has a depth and breadth of experience in all financial, commercial, operational and compliance matters in this sector. We can advise on any single aspect or a whole project.

The first call is not chargeable so do cContact us.

Over the last seven years, my wife Jo and I have built up a very successful enterprise that we are proud of www.reinandshine.co.uk  We made our own mistakes and learnt a lot on the way.

But when we started there was no help anywhere, from anyone in the riding centre market. A few marketing people but no real insider business knowledge specifically for riding establishments.

John McDonald