Wither the Equestrian Business?

Doug Emerson contacted me yesterday, wondering if I had a good feel for where the equestrian market is headed.  I don’t, but I have been watching this closely!  Please chime in if you have something to add.

Back in January, when inflation was relatively tame, and gas was only $3.25 a gallon, I met up with the Langers (of Langer Equestrian Group) at the USEF annual meeting.  Larry postulated that this year was gong to be ok, but 2009 was going to be really tough.  His assessment (one that I might add I agree with) is that owning and showing a horse is not something that people can start – or stop – whenever the price of food or fuel changes.

I have guessed that many people showing competitively have invested at least upwards of $250,000 between horses, their stable, a truck, a 5th wheel, maybe an indoor ring and land for all of the above.  Sure, there are people who compete from their backyard and haul a two horse trailer behind the pickup truck (it is what we used to do!), and this is a large part of our business, but larger shows like those run by Larry or Bob Bell attract competitors with greater expectations.  Land, barns, trainers, horses and professionals to haul animals do not come cheaply.  If you have made this kind of investment in your riding career, you do not stop just because the price of diesel went from $4 per gallon to $5.

Lets look at this differently; I own a motor boat which I keep on a mooring.  I figure that every year, between commissioning, the mooring, decommissioning, local fees and fuel it costs several thousand dollars to have this boat.  Last year fuel cost $4 per gallon.  Last week boat gas was going for $4.99/gallon.  I burn about 150 gallons/year, so the cost of owning the boat will go up another $150 a year.  As a percentage, this isn’t a lot, but the psychological damage is huge.  I use the boat much less.  I expect that we will see the same thing in the equestrian world.

People who own an equestrian estate won’t (or can’t) sell the property if they want to.  For them, this is a liquidity crisis.  No one wants to purchase their vehicles, or their horses, or their farm, since everyone else has the same problem.  Some equestrians will be able to weather this storm, others will have to stop showing and hunker down for a while (or worse).

This will all blow over folks.  Within a year or two market forces will bring new fuels to market.  Vehicles will become more efficient and new technologies will begin to enter the marketplace.  However, as it takes some time for everyone to put the brakes on, it may take a while for everyone to come back to the table, so if we see lots of folks exit the industry, it could take a while for us to return to the same level of activity.

From the standpoint of a ribbon manufacturer, I do not expect that we will see a huge fall off in order activity.  As long as each class still has at least 6 competitors, 6 ribbons will be awarded.  However, my guess is that classes with less then 15-20 entries are money loosers, and no show manager can afford to have too many shows that are money losers without doing something about it.  Frequently  that something will be cutting marginal shows – and that is something that we will certainly feel the effects of.

Philadelphia USGA Olympic Selection Trials

Jenn and I spent last week at the USAG Olympic Selection Trials in Philadelphia, PA.  We were there to exhibit along with the other USGSA members at the gymnastics trade fair held in conjunction with the trials.

Traffic at the show this year was very good.  Cathy Feldman of USAG told us that they had a record 1,900 paid attendees before the show started.  I heard later that another 500 signed up during the show.  As usual Thursday (the first day) had the best quality of attendees with lots of club owners hitting the floor. By Saturday we were tired, and the hall was full of young kids bent on stealing as many knick nacks as they could get their hands on.  Thieving kids is one thing, but when you see them handing all of your sample ribbons and medals to their mom a few booths away, it makes your stomach turn!

As usual the mega-raffle was a huge hit.  We raffled off $68,000 in gymnastics equipment!!

While we were there we took in the women’s gymanstics trials on Friday night along with folks from Mancino Manufacturing and Deary Gymnastics.  Where was Gibson?  The women looked great and as someone who doesn’t eat, breathe and sleep gymnastics, wow – they have gotten really good in the past four years.  Best of luck to all our competitors in Bejing this summer!!

About our ribbon company

Here is something that I wrote over a year ago.  It never got used in any marketing piece, but I still like it.  Let me know what you think.

About Our Award Ribbon Company

Welcome to HodgesBadge.com, the nation’s best web site for award ribbons, medals, engraved silver and buttons. We are the internet division of Hodges Badge Company, which has been manufacturing and selling top quality award ribbons since 1920.

As a fourth generation, family-owned and operated awards business, our values and goals all revolve around the people that make our success possible – our customers and employees. We have an experienced staff of true professionals that are fully committed to a level of quality and customer service that is second to none in the awards industry. Our philosophy has always been quite simple; bend over backwards for the customer – at any cost – and treat them, as you would wish to be treated.

You can take advantage of our expertise with just a click of the mouse. Whatever your needs are – from full color dye sublimated ribbons, to horse show awards and custom medals, – we can handle your project every step of the way. From initial design to final delivery - we will design, manufacture and ship – all in house. We are all eager to serve you in the most efficient and responsive manner possible.

President and CEO, Rick Hodges, guarantees your satisfaction. “We treat every job like it was our own and our top priority is the customer, period. We offer customers the convenience of one stop shopping, without sacrificing the quality and service that is desired. We stand behind everything that we produce and we are both confident and proud to offer you 2 unconditional guarantees”…

1) Quality Guarantee:

When it comes to quality, there is no substitute. Pretty good isn’t very good at all. It needs to be the best it can possibly be. We assure you that the quality of our craftsmanship will meet or exceed industry standards by any measure. If at any time we fail to meet these quality standards, we will, without any question, redo the job at our cost. We will expedite the production of any redone materials to the best of our ability – including express shipping at our cost when necessary. If, for some reason, reprinting is not an option, we will refund 100% of your money.

2) On-Time Guarantee

We realize that timeliness is an equally critical component to the quality of printing and customer service that we provide. We take great pride in the manner in which we produce every job – right down to the final delivery. When we give you a date that we will ship your job, consider it done. If for any reason, other than an act of God or major equipment failure, we don’t ship it when we say, we will not only absorb the shipping cost, you won’t pay a dime for the ribbons.

Shipping Charges

I am sure that this comes as a surprise to no one, but with gas at $4/gal and diesel at $5/gal (at least it was that high in Sacramento where we were last weekend), UPS has raised their rates again, and the camel’s back finally broke.  We are increasing our shipping charges today to better match what we are paying to UPS.  I wish we didn’t have to do it (I simply hate raising prices) but for us shipping charges are just a pass through, so keeping these new charges all to ourselves is not helpful for the business.

Rick