“OUR COMPANY FEELS LIKE IT DID 20 YEARS AGO”

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As the coronavirus crisis continues to bite, a business owner shares his lockdown diary.

“We’re running a very tight ship right now, says Simon Middleton, managing director of Zebra Products.

Until last month, Zebra Products - the UK distributor of a dozen or so well-known European equestrian brands such as Amerigo, Bucas and Sprenger – employed 20 people. 

Jess Goodaire

The Flint, North Wales based company, was founded two decades ago to supply and support retailers across the UK and Ireland.

Like all businesses determined to continue trading and serving its customers, Zebra Products has had to be agile under Covid-19 restrictions. 

“Just now, we have two people in our HQ; one picking and packing and one answering calls and inputting orders. They are working in separate parts of the building and taking every recommended precaution,” continues Simon. 

Catherine Dodd

“So well done to Jess Goodaire, (above), our warehouse manager, and Catherine Dodd,(left) our customer services manager. They are literally running the whole operation – which is amazing. 

“Jess had her 30th birthday last week. We managed a cake, but no candles.

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Online is the life blood

“We are getting shipments from Germany and Belgium, but understandably nothing at all from Italy. 

“I’m liaising daily with online retail customers who are currently the life blood of the industry.

“We have another two of the team working remotely, and the rest are furloughed. Thank goodness for this supportive scheme – not that we are 100% sure when we will all be reimbursed by HMRC. 

“Overall, the company now feels like it used to 20 years ago!” 

Offers and discounts

“We’ve been running some offers. One, via a key Konigs retail customer, is for a 20% discount on any new boots ordered with a free made-to-measure option. Fortunately, this customer is superb at remote measuring, so the offer has resulted in quite a few pairs being ordered.

“We’ve also been testing the water with a Uvex helmet special price offer with another online retailer. It’s been a great success, so the plan is to roll it out to all customers this week… 

“The Uvex Exxential 2 will be offered with a 25% discount. An adjustable, BSI Kitemarked VG1 helmet for £75 (RRP) is quite a bargain! We have good stocks here in Flint of nearly all sizes and colours. 

Innovative devices and pub quizzes

“One of our key Cavalor [supplements] customers, Cavalor-Direct, is owned and managed by Rob Lickley who also owns Kingswood Equestrian Centre near Wolverhampton. 

Virtual pub quiz

“They’re running some great competitions on social media – from the best-laid muck heap to the best plaits – and have had heaps of entries and comments/likes. 

“The warm weather means we’re starting to sell lots of Bucas Zebra fly rugs. This iconic rug really does what is says on the tin in terms of repelling insects.

“The other thing I’m doing right now is looking at ways of taking advantage of the lockdown to pick up on some ideas I’ve had on the back burner. 

“At an Amerigo distributors’ meeting back in 2018, we had a presentation on the ALOGO Move, a smart sensor which analyses horses’ movement and performance in 3D. It’s a genuinely innovative, ground-breaking concept.

“So I’ve been in touch with some key industry figures in this sector, and met up with them via Zoom alongside David Deillon, former top Swiss showjumper and now the CEO of ALOGO Move. So far, so good… we have more virtual meetings planned. 

“At home, we’ve been enjoying the company of our horses and dogs. Like so many others, we’ve been meeting up with friends remotely – and now have twice-weekly horsey people’s virtual pub quizzes on the go. It’s great fun…”

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