All eyes are on Monday, 1 June as the likely start date for stores to open more widely. BETA has been helping businesses prepare. 

“There’s been a real change of focus this week,” said BETA’s executive director Claire Williams when asked about the mood among equestrian retailers. 

“It’s gone from some accepting a shut-down to nearly everyone asking ‘how do we work forward’? 

“Of course,” she added, “many retailers have been trading throughout [the coronavirus pandemic]. But now many more are aiming for a 1 June date to start up again or begin to offer additional services.”

With Scotland set to relax its lockdown at the end of May, joining England in allowing socially distanced outdoor activities, riding looks like being on the agenda there too. 

And as Claire says: “As soon as riders were given the go-ahead in England last week, it kick-started riding schools, farriers and so on. 

“Flat racing resumes on 1 June too. It’s all giving businesses a reason to get going again…” 

Information hub

The BETA team is providing the information and inspiration member companies need to start trading afresh under Covid-19 restrictions. 

Every time Government guidelines are issued – and some days there up are to 40 separate items - Claire reads, dissects and then disseminates the useful bits to BETA’s membership.

Many new regulations also apply to BETA’s head office. “It’s been useful for members to know that, like them, we’re also running a business,” said Claire. 

“So, for instance, this week, we’ve completed the latest round of furlough submissions and applied for a bounce-back loan to help with working capital. We’re also constantly monitoring safe distancing and hygiene among the few of us that are working in the office.”

Hat and body protector fitting

BETA has long trained retailers how to fit riding hats and body protectors correctly. Now it’s produced protocols to enable the service to be offered while meeting Covid-19 guidelines. 

The same goes for many other aspects of running a public-facing business, BETA having developed strategies for everything from working behind a shop counter to making yard visits and deliveries

Webex conference calls have also proved popular with 23 retailers dialling in for live chat and to hear from others at various stages of post Covid-19 trading. 

“There was the chance to ask questions, make comment and we could all see one another, which was great,” said Claire, who’s planning a follow up next week or in early June. 

Other topics discussed were whether reps were welcome to visit shops, how to cope with clothing sales, screens, floor markings, sanitisers and PPE – something which BETA is sourcing on members’ behalf.

A link will be sent to members wishing to register for upcoming virtual seminars.

“Offering hat and body protector fitting and opening shops is all do-able,” says Claire, “we’ve developed risk assessment methods and safe working practices. We’re giving retailers the tools but, at the end of the day, it’s up to each business to decide whether, when and how.” 

Robo on the road

BETA’s wide-reaching work takes the trade association to many corners of the equestrian world. 

RoboCob (one of BETA’s mechanical horses) is due to travel – in his trailer - to Scotland to be used in a research project which is struggling to find ‘real’ horses to continue the study. 

Tweaking the training

Work is underway to run some of BETA’s training programme via video conferencing, starting with the feed related NOPS and labelling courses.

The social media course is another likely candidate to go virtual; while other courses may be uploaded to BETA’s training platform Equitoolz.

When the house burns down…

Many business owners have likened their BETA membership to having good insurance which pays out in a crisis. 

Companies that apply to join BETA now could be full members by July, following approval by the trade association’s Council. 

However, as a goodwill gesture in the current circumstances, anyone who applies now will be added to the distribution list to receive BETA’s outgoing advice.

How is the trade faring?

BETA is to conduct a survey at the end of May to track how equestrian companies have fared during the coronavirus outbreak. 

It follows BETA’s widely publicised previous research that covered the first ten days of lockdown. 

Members will receive the new survey questionnaire – and are welcome to pass it onto other non-members companies they feel can make a useful contribution.

Can I buy you a drink?

The trade has undoubtedly united against the common enemy during Covid-19. As Claire Williams says: “I’ve never spoken to so many members from all parts of the industry and corners of the UK.

“We’re all appreciating each other and wanting to work through it together. It’s been wonderful in that respect.”

Many thank-you notes have arrived at the BETA office. This one is from a retailer who also runs a competition centre. 

“Dear Claire, I would like to say a huge thank you to you and BETA for the superb clarity of information which you have been providing since the start of the Covid-19 situation.

“We took-over a small equestrian retail business last November and became BETA members in March. I’m so very glad we did.

“Your emails are totally neutral and provide all the information we could possibly need. You are totally in tune with your membership in offering help and support.

“Maybe sometime in the future I can buy you a drink and say thank you in person - if government guidelines and social distancing permit us!”

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