START YOUR HORSE TACK and EQUESTRIAN GIFT STORE
To Start A Horse Tack Store Business, you will need to do some research go over several matters. The purpose of this section is to provide an overview of this process and to provide resources needed in order to develop a plan. In practical application, most Tack Stores operate as Tack and Equestrian Gift Stores. This is a reasonable and profitable business decision and opens up a wider range of product sales. Further, when it comes to gift giving for birthdays and other occasions, friends of equestrians will look for an equestrian gift. Opening a Tack Store as your horse business will be a time consuming adventure and can provide excellent rewards to you if managed correctly.
Aside from the product being sold, tack shops operate as other retail establishments with many of the same business principles: Store Design, Store Marketing, Online Marketing, Store Inventory, Store Location, Commercial Leases, Business Licensing, and Business Management Principles are common to all these businesses. Starting a Tack Store will bring additional factors into play. You will also need to determine your Inventory Control Plan, Loss Prevention Plan, and Employee HR Plan.
Starting A Horse Tack Business will follow the same general steps as required by Creating a Business Plan for any business. Simply outlining the basic steps necessary to a business plan does little to get to the how-to of the business. The stumbling block for many is just how do you go about getting into the business and actually start a horse tack and equestrian gift store business. There are numerous things you will need to accomplish, but they can be classified initially under these topics:
Most people envision a Tack Store and Gift Shop as encompassing a full line of horse tack with an apparel/boots section accompanied by an equestrian gifts section. Depending upon your market and personal desires, you can choose to be primarily English or Western in your approach or both. If you add feed products, you will need more space be able to sell these feed products quickly.
Where Do You Want To Sell It?
If you are planning to open a store that physically exists, a location near horses and stables usually works well. This should not be isolated and rural (unless run at the barn). Choose major highway approaches and one of the last small retail areas with some other businesses nearby. If you are planning an online store, your business can exist inside your home.
Google Maps: Use your Google Maps Tool. Search your area for Stables and Boarding Facilities. Search for Tack Businesses and Feed Stores. Look where the businesses are and aren’t. Use your highlighter to locate major highways and intersections. Use you local knowledge (or Social Capital Resources) to determine areas of real estate growth and new subdivisions. This is an area you need to drive and look over. If any of your competitor businesses could relocate instantly, where would they go?
What Products Do You Have To Sell?
Here is a major hurdle and one of the reasons you should study the Trade Websites for Tack Store Suppliers. Suppliers are extremely leery of new start-up businesses and of providing inventory on open account. Many are going to require you to pay up front or a substantial percentage of the costs upfront. Lenders are equally unlikely to make full inventory loans for start up businesses. Some will loan a percentage and the amount may not be based upon the cost of the inventory to you. Most lenders will value an inventory product at Liquidation Value, that is, maybe ten to twenty (10%-20%) percent of what it costs you from the manufacturer. Don’t count on a loan to cover everything. The more established a business has become, your chosen suppliers may begin to demand less up front or even move to a 60 or 90 day open account for you.
A Note About Product Mix: Many tack stores have noticed the strong affinity between horse owners and dog and cat owners. Plan to include dog and cat products in your inventory mix.
Can You Afford To Stock Your Store?
If you have a very large inventory of horse tack on hand, you will need a sizeable investment. Saddle costs alone will be substantial. If you do not have enough selection to entice customers to come to your store, your customer traffic will not support your business. Getting the right product mix and the right product mix for your budget are important things you will need to decide.
Online stores offer many advantages--and there are also major disadvantages. In an online store, you can work around your inventory issues and you will have no store lease costs involved. Hopefully, you will build your online store with Suppliers who will ship directly to the customer. You will still have costs in running the store, but a less than in actually opening a store. The major disadvantage is that a huge number of customers will want to see, feel, touch and buy the product the product they are shopping for NOW. The other major disadvantage is establishing a site that people can and will find on the Internet--and one from which they will make a purchase. It takes some time to create these sites and have the major search engines find them.
Some people work their horse tack business with mobile trucks or vans and actually travel to barns and shows on weekends. This is a good start-up practice that can be combined with an online store. The Mobile Businesses usually work well with smaller items in order to have a good variety: These businesses may deal in halters, lead ropes, blankets and sheets, grooming products, caps, socks, tee shirts, and numerous similar items. Their success can depend upon an ability to choose good boutique items with good design, color choices or color combinations, and something more individualized than what the customer may normally see.
Custom Products, or unique one-of-a-kind products are usually thought of as custom saddles, tack, jewelry and the like. These are great products, but are usually restricted to those with those skills and talents to make and sell their own products in boutique shops.
However, a good relationship with a custom embroidery shop can make a seemingly plain item unique. People enjoy owning items that are personalized or that carry a particular logo. Your business can contract (and charge) for custom embroidery work, design engraved metal tags with your stores name for attachment to products, design custom embroidered patches for simple attachment, or sell your designed and screened tee shirts.
Niche Tack Business:
Your Tack Store can also limit itself to a particular niche. My Draft Horse is a niche tack business offering custom products for Draft Horses only. The same could be said for Miniature Horse Tack, Ponies, or Dressage, for example.
Consignment Tax Stores:
If you have a good ability to price and judge used tack, consider using consigned items to stock your stores. A good example of this is an antique mall. Many of these operate in older warehouses with temporary, moveable partitions that set up areas for people to display items for sale. The items are uniformly marked on a common tag and a single sales desk collects the money and pays the consignor. For the Antique Mall Operator, it builds inventory quicker and without the costs--attracting a wider clientele. The same principle is at hand in consignment clothing stores. Horse Riding Tack and Apparel are good choices for this approach. Children’s riding apparel (likely outgrown) can also be added.
Many Suppliers give price breaks for larger quantity orders. While the pricing may look great to you, it is unlikely you can buy in sufficient quantities as a start-up. You CAN work with existing tack store operators in other cities (with whom you are rarely in competition) and make increased quantity purchases that you split. Cooperative Purchasing Programs exist in many types of industries. Increasing your Business Social capital by networking within your industry can help you accomplish this. It can also be very useful in your Start Up Plans. You will need to find reputable operators, very likely from some distance away, with whom you can make arrangements and who are willing to work with you. Join your Business Trade Associations, Network, Cold Call, and do what you need to do. You will also find out about new products and what products they are selling to add to your inventory.
Local Suppliers may be more willing to work with you--they need their money too, so don’t overdo asking for time to pay. While you may not have a local saddle maker, there will likely be local candle makers, artists, and others who can make things you can sell. Become aware in your area of these people and seek them out. A huge benefit from working with local suppliers is the word of mouth advertising you will get from them as they come in contact with other people. Offer to link their websites to yours.
Virtually any idea you have to promote your business, if you cannot fully start up your business now, will work as a Spin Up Business to create an income stream. Virtually, any item you intend to sell could also be a Spin Up Business depending upon your skills, abilities, and desire. Tack Boxes, Saddle Stands, Candles, and Tee Shirts are all stand alone businesses.
FIND AND GET SUPPLIERS
You will need to establish relationships with your potential suppliers. You can contact them in several ways including e-mail, telephone, and fax. Go to the Suppliers’ websites and get the information you need. One of the best ways is to actually attend a trade show where you can meet and speak with Supplier Representatives, and, oftentimes even an owner of the company. Create an ongoing and responsible relationship with your Supplier Representatives. Use the trade shows to meet others in the business.
Register for Trade Shows: Trade Shows are not open to the public. You will need to register to attend the show. You will likely be asked for the name and address of your business, e-mail addresses, EIN, Website. Do these steps. Establish a Website. Set up your Business E-Mail. Get your EIN. Print Business Cards (You will need them to pass out at the trade shows).
Attending A Trade Show:
If you have a connection in the Tack Business who will not likely be a future competitor, find out if they are attending or would attend with you. Their business may be able to register more than one attendee and you can attend in that fashion. (Even if they weren’t planning to go, a lot of people are tempted by a chance to get away for a couple of days.) If at all possible, stay at the main hotel or closest hotel to the event in order to be in the company of the largest number of attendees. Take advantage of this gathering to Network before things start and after they end. Whether at breakfast or dinners, circulate as much as you can and make contacts. For some people, these events are escapes; for you, it is the future of your business.
Start by increasing your knowledge about the Retail Business in general and the operation of a Tack Store more specifically.
TACK N' TOGS
A good starting point is Tack N’ Togs Merchandising. Tack N’ Togs is the leading Equine Merchandising Magazine. It is intended for Tack Store and Equine Gift Store Owners and provides a large amount of information. You may subscribe to the magazine as well as sign-up for the e-newsletter. The Buyer’s Guide, available online, is an excellent guide to suppliers, product mix, and trade shows. You cans search back issues and get more information and ideas. Retail Tips and Business Sense advice and suggestions. Marketplace lists upcoming trade shows.
The American Equestrian Trade Association was founded in 2006. It is designed as a trade association to assist its members in operating equine retail businesses. The Board of Directors consists of both Equine Product Manufacturer’s as well as Owner/Operators of Equine Tack and Saddlery Businesses. The membership Directory is itself a valuable online resource that provides numerous links to Manufacturers and Retailers including website, location and telephone contact numbers. Members may join in an Online Members Community to share thoughts on retailing and get advice. AETA also conducts Trade Shows and offers a Newsletter.