Coronavirus Update – to all our customers and suppliers
Who could possibly have imagined that as of tomorrow, March 20th 2020, all of our schools would be forced to close, many of us would be ‘self-isolating’ at home and the entire Equestrian industry would be virtually closed until further notice?
I can only tell our story but within this, there will be many similarities for other businesses like ours, possibly some useful information and definitely some positive thoughts.
As a manufacturer of Horsewear we represent both the Equestrian market (Showjumping, Eventing, Dressage etc) through Yaris Equestrian and the Horse Racing market through Yaris Racing. The start of the year is busy for both sectors with many equestrian riders heading off abroad on tours and at home the national hunt racing in full swing.
We have enjoyed a great start to the year. We spent a huge amount of time and money investing in our marketing support during the second half of 2019 and our activities in the final quarter led to a great uplift in sales in January and February this year.
As much as we may not have wanted to admit it we also felt like we were experiencing the ‘Boris Bounce’, a term used to describe the much more positive feeling in the UK, after what seemed years of caution as we fumbled through the Brexit problem. I know many of our customers and suppliers also experienced this and felt the same so, as we headed into March, we were recruiting new staff and ramping up our production capacity further.
I first remember hearing about Coronavirus during the Christmas break whilst off with my wife and 3 children. ‘Let’s hope it doesn’t get over here’ were my thoughts at the time and, whilst restricted to China, didn’t think too much about it and certainly not what it might turn out to be.
As we stand here on 19th March the virus has spread the world over and has resulted in conditions which I’ve never experienced in my lifetime and nor has been experienced by any of my family and colleagues.
Since the beginning of March, our sales have dropped off a cliff. With all our markets closed it is understandable that no-one wants to invest in custom gear which is the majority of what we make so all can do is watch and hope that this will be as short a period as possible and we try and plan the best we can for our markets re-opening in the future. But one thing we won’t do is panic. This won’t help. We can already see other businesses closing their doors and laying people off but please don’t do this! Our government is making available a massive range of support for businesses. I accept that it may not be totally clear what that support looks like or how we can access that support, but it is coming so just hold on!
I’m going to share with you our plan and activities and I’m hoping you will also share some of yours so we can all help each other in getting through this.
Firstly, we remain open for business. You can still order from our full Custom and CORE Ranges for anything you may need now, or in the future. We have a small team who have been together for more years than I can add up and all want to carry on – with the right distance, hygiene and precautions in place and of course the health of our team is our top priority. We have run through a whole number of different scenario’s and have planned fully so we can maintain service – if you are unsure about placing an order just pick up the phone. We will always be honest and transparent.
We are classed as a rural business so we believe we will have the following financial support available to us (at the time of writing):
- A refund of the cost of providing 14 days Statutory Sick Pay, per employee, should they fall ill or are required to self-isolate
- 2. The removal of business rates for the tax year 2020 – 2021
- A cash grant (non-repayable) of £10,000 which will shortly be made available via our local authority. This amount will be up to £25,000 if you pay business rates above £15,000pa
There is also a loan scheme being made available however I can’t think of any business who would want to borrow money to stay in business when this would only add an additional debt burden with no understanding of the future and being able to repay a loan – this would only be a very last resort and some way down the line when things would hopefully be more clear.
In addition, I believe the government will imminently announce further measures to support the income of our team to bridge the gap between the Statutory Sick Pay and their normal levels of take-home pay.
The overriding message is this: It may not be in place yet, but the government do not want any business to fail or any employee to suffer as a result of the virus so hang tight and take up the support being offered when it is made available. Keep trading and use the time wisely.
I wonder how many of your businesses are classed as rural businesses and how many will understand the range of support available. If you are unsure check out this guidance and ask others.
So, finally, some positivity. We will get through this and return to ‘normal’. Who knows what normal will look like and when that might be, but we will come through the other side and hopefully with a huge bounce.
We are changing our marketing activities to try and create an online community for people to discuss, share, learn and laugh whilst we are hunkered down and unable to compete. We are looking into competitions to keep everyone motivated, learning and training with tips and classes from our rider team, and an open door forum for discussion and support.
Please be safe and vigilant and do all the right things at the right time but stay positive and try and use the time effectively so we come through the other side as better people with better businesses and better opportunities.
Yours Sincerely, James.