‘Crucial to recovery will be the importance of all parts of the trade working together’: Horse & Hound examines the results of recent industry surveys and speaks to experts about what the next steps need to be...
THE equestrian industry is showing a “real desire to survive” the coronavirus pandemic – while the effects should act as a wake-up call to some businesses.
The British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), and the British Grooms Association (BGA) and Equestrian Employers Association (EEA), have carried out impact surveys on members.
The BETA surveys, completed by more than 100 retail and 69 trade members, found the pandemic is “posing the greatest threat to the future of our trade that most of us will have ever experienced”.
The immediate impact on turnover in supply and distribution was slightly less than for retail. Nearly 58% of trade member companies’ turnover was down, while over 75% of retailers saw a decrease in sales.
Companies dealing in feed, bedding and healthcare products have typically shown an increase rather than a decrease in turnover, albeit short-lived, while those dealing in mainly rider-related items such as clothing have had an “overwhelmingly negative impact”.
“Many of those who responded showed a real desire and will to survive, albeit based on being given an opportunity to do so,” a BETA spokesman said. “This opportunity will not only come from the end of lockdown, government assistance, financial and otherwise and the equestrian bodies encouraging participants to return to our sport.
“Crucial to recovery will be the importance of all parts of the trade working together to help one another to recover. This means working through challenging times, but without this joint effort we risk losing more businesses than we have ever lost before. All at BETA will do their utmost to ensure we play a key role in this recovery with guidance and support of you, our members.”
BETA executive director Claire Williams told H&H the situation immediately after lockdown was imposed was “not looking good”, but retailers are changing ways of working to cope.
“The biggest challenge for many businesses will be cash flow,” she added. “That might be the breaking point for a lot of them.
“The government’s coronavirus business interruption loan [CBIL] scheme has been a challenge as you’ve got to show you’ve got a business that’s viable long-term and we don’t know when lockdown will end.
“The introduction of the bounce back loan scheme on 4 May offers a life line to many small companies, offering loans up to £50,000, which we hope are easier to access than those under the CBIL scheme.”
The BGA and EEA survey had more than 1,300 responses.
“The results are concerning, revealing that 89% of businesses have seen a financial impact, with 5% worried they will face closure,” a BGA spokesman said.
Riding schools have been worst affected; 100% of respondents said their finances had suffered, 85% have no income, as was the case for 44% of all businesses, and 10% said it is likely they will have to close.
Over 50% of employed grooms are working fewer hours or have been furloughed or made redundant, while 80% of freelance grooms are working fewer hours. More than 61% of respondents felt the situation is affecting their mental health.
“It is essential the industry as a whole prioritises those who run businesses and earn a living and livelihood from horses,” the spokesman said. “Without them, others will be unable to enjoy the hobby and sport.
“The findings demonstrate that the entire industry is facing a time of unprecedented challenge. Coronavirus presents an array of difficulties, which vary, but it is clear: this is a problem that impacts everyone.
“Key is the recommendation that additional provisions are needed in many areas. Further support for businesses and for the well-being of grooms and business owners is essential to ensure survival.”
BGA executive director Lucy Katan told H&H one effect of the pandemic could be to make some equestrian employers more compliant with relevant legislation.
“We’ve heard from people who haven’t been running a payroll, for example – so they can’t furlough staff,” she said. “This could act as a wake-up call for the industry; every business has to be run correctly, and those that aren’t are missing out.”
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The survey launched on 26 March received more than 6,000 responses in 10 days