It has been a tough few weeks for the livery yard and riding school sector

Reminder of the opportunity

Although the lock down is far from over, let us remind ourselves of the opportunity for businesses in this sector

According to industry figures there are 3,100,000 former riders who would like to get back in the saddle!

Here are some more facts quoted by the British Horse Society from surveys by Horse (2017) and BETA (2019):

The equine industry contributes £4.7bn per year to the economy

1 in 3 people in Britain have an interest in equestrianism

There are 1.8m regular riders, not forgetting the 3.1m referred to above!

Riding for leisure is the key reason for riding horses

The equine industry is the second largest rural employer

In my experience of past catastrophic events, and I am experienced enough to remember quite a few, things do bounce back. How quickly, is largely down to the business owner. If you are excited, your customers will be excited about returning. In this case there may be concerns and fear, so hygiene measures and social distancing guidelines, if met, will put people at ease. Make sure customers know how you are dealing with this aspect, remove the fear, and let them know you are excited as well.

Our industry has suffered, along with many other sectors, but the opportunities quoted above are still there, more so in some respects. Yes, it might take a while to recover. The competition will, of course, be strong from other rural and outdoor activities as people will tend to travel to the safest locations. See our blog on Relaunch – so get the relaunch plans fired up asap.

People will definitely be looking for things to do, and they will certainly want to get out of towns and cities, let alone all your existing customers who cannot wait to get back to riding.

Livery customers too, wanting to do and try different things. Many will have lost the edge, so retraining, building up muscles, brushing up on technique and so on. New style clinics and back to riding/competing/clinics/lessons will create opportunities.

Lots of interesting ideas and plans should be fizzing now to reignite the business. Business owners know their customers best of all, so we need to get them fired up, ready to start booking lessons, clinics, training, even competitions. British Equestrian are already planning how competitions can be conducted when the guidelines start to relax.

Building excitement in the customers base and enticing new customers will make sure the booking system is filling up. Plan to unfurlough staff, get instructors back, train the horses and ponies ready for work. Tell customers about your plans – look at our blog in February this year for how to Market your Business for Free. That will help kick start things again and cost little or even nothing. Plan for a full yard of livery customers and a full diary for all your lessons and training schedules.

You may be worried about the economy, but being a bit older now, in my experience that there is no need for this. The demand will be there, the economy will come back  (albeit some regions sooner than others). Costs may increase but they always will.

So, if time is moving slowly . . .

Here are 5 simple ways to reassess your business and start to relaunch your centre:

  1. Research your market, again. Be thorough and understand what has changed in your area – the economy, the guidelines, the safety measures required.
  2. Revisit the reasons for doing what you do. Where do you want the business to go now? Maybe it’s a good chance to change direction in one or two areas.
  3. Look at your business plan again and reassess your cash flow forecast.
  4. Some customers may have been lost, so plan to acquire new customers. Get your existing customers as excited as you are.
  5. Be aware of your working capital needs on start up. Working capital may be more than you think, so calculate it precisely in line with the restart.

A couple of our other blogs worth referring to are Cash Flow During Lock Down and the Case Study for Professional Advice.

This may sound simplistic, but as an approach it’s a great place to start to turn your life and business round. Please contact us if you could you use a second pair of eyes – sometime two heads and better than one?

My intention is to publish a series of blogs and articles outlining these and other key strategies for building a really successful riding centre. Why would I do this? Because over the last seven years, my wife Jo and I have built up what we think is 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. Well now there is. Stay tuned or visit our website at www.jamesg62.sg-host.com

Equine Business Consultancy – 1 Buryhill Farm, Braydon, Wiltshire, SN5 0AD johnmcdonald@jamesg62.sg-host.com– 01666 860005

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