How’s lockdown 2 going for equestrian retailers on the front line?

Many equestrian stores supplying essential goods remain open during England’s current coronavirus lockdown. 

After the first full week of tighter restrictions, stoicism has replaced the uncertain and sometimes fearful atmosphere of the first lockdown.  

Proprietors and staff continue to work hard to serve their customers from Covid-safe premises.

“Everybody knows what they’re doing this time,” said Molly Daniel, sales assistant at Bettertack near Spalding. “And customers know what the rules are now, so we don’t have to guide people like we did before.”

This Lincolnshire store saw an initial rush for feed and bedding last week, but trading has settled since. 

“Although it’s different this time because more people will be thinking about bringing horses in [for the winter], it’s still mild so people are leaving them out if they can,” added Molly. 

Speaking for many retail staff, she said that while working through two lockdowns has been tough, it’s been rewarding to keep horse owners supplied with what they need. 

Grants for staying open?

In Lambourn, E J Wicks closed its store during the Spring lockdown, but has remained open this time. 

Looking after its many customers in racing – a sport which has operated behind closed doors since 1 June - was important to business owner Richard Fynn. 

“We’re selling a lot of waterproofs and the things that people dash in for, like clipper blades and oil,” he said.

“We’ve not got [the usual] footfall, but supermarkets can sell non-essential as well as essential, so we’ve kept everything [across the store] open.”

While E J Wicks’ website has just had a very busy weekend, the business as a whole is holding back on Christmas this year.  

“We’ve not put much Christmas stuff out,” added Richard. “We haven’t got decorations and lights up. We’re treading carefully this year, whereas normally November would be our biggest month.”

However, the store’s repair service – for which customers travel considerable distances - has been thriving, with its three saddlers and a seamstress all keeping their jobs. 

“We haven’t furloughed anyone,” said Richard. “We’ve had enough work for them all.

“But, of course, it can cost money for a business to stay open,” he added, referring to potentially reduced footfall and the expense of making premises Covid-safe. 

“So, I do wonder if there should be a grant available for those that manage to do so and don’t claim on the furlough scheme.”

“Try to stay cheerful”

“People went a bit mad last time [panic buying in the first lockdown] but now they’re getting used to it,” said Pauline Taylor who’s worked at The Tack Haven in Dunstable, Bedfordshire for nearly 20 years. 

“We’ve stayed open throughout,” she added. “We were quite busy with feed and bedding on Friday and Saturday, but now it’s calmed down a bit.”  

Pauline admits that working in-store has been hard during the pandemic. “But you have to go with the flow, try to stay cheerful and have a laugh and a joke where you can,” she added.

The Tack Haven is getting festive with some light-up reindeer and dog toys. “Not too much, but just enough to get people in the mood, and brighten it up,” explained Pauline.

One line that has been selling exceptionally well throughout the Covid-19 crisis, she added, is wild bird food. 

“People are at home more, and it’s lovely to watch the birds in the garden.” 

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash