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Articles from 2020 In January

Royal visit to BETA International

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BETA International ended its final year at the NEC, Birmingham, on a high with a visit from Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal, who addressed the show’s visitors after being introduced to exhibitors on a tour of the halls.

“I do hope coming here helps you to focus on what to do, perhaps do it better and see where the new ideas are coming from, and what people’s expectations are,” she said. “Many of you are small- to medium-size enterprises and that adds its own challenge. Staying in touch through BETA, its membership and this show, I hope, makes life a little bit easier.

“The show has played a real role in developing new businesses and helping established ones to maintain their position, not just nationally, but internationally. It is still fundamentally important to you as a sector.”

Following the Princess Royal’s speech, BETA International organiser Claire Thomas presented her with a donation for the Riding for the Disabled Association, of which she is president.

Meanwhile, plans were announced for the show to move to NAEC Stoneleigh, in Warwickshire, next year, bringing a frisson of excitement and anticipation to the halls. News of the relocation certainly proved a talking point – but did not detract from the business and buying taking place at BETA International 2020.

Hundreds of new products – many unveiled for the very first time – took the limelight, enjoying a centre-stage position and providing a powerful attraction for retailers keen to source new stock and gather ideas and inspiration.

Many of the brightest and best were highlighted in the Shires Equestrian New Product Gallery and the Pet Product Gallery, a showcase of the pet world’s finest, introduced to the show for 2020.

ITV newscaster Alastair Stewart was back in the halls as the popular host of Talking Business, BETA International's thought-provoking industry debate on Sunday at The Charles Owen Spotlight.

This year's panellists were Abbey England managing director Richard Brown, Shires Equestrian joint managing director Marcus Cridland, Redpin Publishing commercial director Andy Haines, Highfield Equestrian and Online for Equine director Victoria Highfield and Pet n Pony managing director Chris Hughes.

Discussing the changing dynamics of the retail environment, Highfield noticed the consumer market being more “price driven”, while Hughes said it was important to “create an experience in-store” to fight back against falling footfall and Cridland added: “Independent retailers have always been the lifeblood of our industry.”

All the panellists agreed on the need to be eco-conscious. “We use as little plastic as we can because that’s a sustainable model that we as a family wish to uphold,” said Brown.

Retailers in the audience also spoke about their attempts to be responsible and respond to customers’ increasing demands to operate in an eco-friendly way.

Another attraction at The Charles Owen Spotlight was An Audience with Tom MacGuinness, in which the Horseware Ireland founder spoke about his new-found passion as an endurance rider and his preparations for this year’s FEI World Championship in Italy. “Endurance is the most noble of all equestrian disciplines,” he said. “That’s what a horse was designed to do, to take you from A to B.”

The Spotlight remained busy throughout the show, with a full programme of presentations – and the Fashion Show, which took place three times daily on Sunday and Monday, and twice on Tuesday.

Catwalk cool was hot gossip as Victoria Thomas, of Red Ice Productions, put rider wear and country clothing through its paces. A professional dancer, Highfield brought a tantalizing twist to the shows with her dancing models, racy dance routines and a music playlist set to keep your toes tapping for weeks.

Buyers pulled up their seats to take in the view as some of the biggest names in the business – Covalliero, Bucas, GoLeyGo, Rupert & Buckley, Percussion, HKM, Hy Equestrian, Coldstream, My LeMieux, Gallop Equestrian, USG Germany, Tekna and Horseware Ireland – strutted their stuff before a captivated audience.

New for 2020 was the Seminar Theatre, with a vibrant collection of sessions, including AMTRA-accredited companion animal and equine CPD modules for SQPS.

The Liveryman Demonstration Arena was also making its début, bringing high-octane drama to the show in the shape of working dog training with Ricky Moloney, dog agility with Liz Finchett and saddle fitting with master saddler Kay Hastilow. The arena also included clipping demos, along with teach-ins on bridle and bit fitting.

The spirit of competition burned brightly at the show, with this year’s new-format Innovation Awards seeing a flurry of truly original products take the top spots on the podium. Sponsored once again by Equestrian Trade News, the show’s media partner, these prestigious business accolades were a winner with the industry as trophies were handed out in four categories – Design Innovation, Technology Innovation, Sustainability Innovation and Judges’ Choice.

A specially selected panel of judges, each an expert in his or her own field, rose to the challenge of selecting the winning products. This year, they were Arian and Julie Charley, of Townfields Saddlers, Dr. Georgina Crossman, administrator of the National Equine Forum, and Sonya Cox, a key member of the NEC’s sustainability working group.

Winners were presented with their awards by ETN editor Liz Benwell. They were: The Wide Boot Co. (Design Innovation), Albert Kerbl (Technology Innovation), Horseware Ireland (Sustainability Innovation) and Westgate Labs (Judges’ Choice).

High quality stands are a hallmark of BETA International and the work and creativity of companies going that extra mile to create an attractive and effective retail environment is celebrated in the show's Best Stand Awards.

All exhibitors are automatically entered into the competition, which was independently judged by Leanne Silman, who has spent more than 10 years at London advertising agencies such as M&C Saatchi, and Olivia Hayward, a London College of Fashion graduate who specializes in styling, branding and creative merchandising. After touring the halls, they selected The Original Muck Boot Company as winner of the Best Large Stand Award (32 sq m and over) and Likit Products for the Best Small Stand Award (under 32 sq m).

During each day of the show, the Society of Master Saddlers showcased the high standard of work by saddlery apprentices and students. Sunday saw Saddlery Training Centre students make a raised browband, with the challenge won by Gudrun Thuesen. Monday’s competition, to make an Irish martingale, was won by second-year Capel Manor College student Georgie Chapman. Tuesday's competition, to make a bridle headpiece, was won by first-year Capel Manor College student Emise Baktai.

Winners of the show's awards were announced and presented with their prizes during a special ceremony at The Charles Owen Spotlight on Sunday evening, when visitors and exhibitors gathered to congratulate them. Main sponsor Neue Schule also presented graduates of its Bit & Bridle Fitting Course with their certificates.

This was followed by free After-Show Drinks, where industry colleagues and friends gathered to celebrate a successful first day of buying and business with the show’s organizing team over glasses of bubbly and canapés.

BETA International organizer Claire Thomas said: “BETA International 2020 was a sensational show for both exhibitors and visitors, who were delighted with our new feature areas and the wide range of exciting new products in the halls. The royal visit was the icing on the cake for everyone in the halls and a timely occasion as we said goodbye to the NEC after 26 years and prepare to move on to pastures new.

“We are incredibly excited about the opportunities that lie ahead and will be unveiling all our plans very soon. But, for now, we are thrilled with this year’s event and are celebrating its success. We would like to extend our thanks to all supporters of the show and our sponsors and suppliers – Neue Schule, Equestrian Trade News, Charles Owen, Shires Equestrian Products, NAF, Henson Franklyn, VetSpec, Toggi, Stubbs England and Aspfase – who really make this all possible.”

BETA International 2021 will take place at the NAEC Stoneleigh, Warwickshire, from Jan. 24-26. There will be an exhibitors’ open March 3, when all are welcome.


Growing emphasis on convenience for today's consumers

Growing emphasis on convenience for today's consumers

Today’s consumers increasingly prioritize convenience when it comes to purchases, and expect retailers to continue to offer innovative ways to save them time and effort, according to the latest issue of the Consumer View report released by the National Retail Federation.

“Time is a precious commodity for today’s consumers,” NRF Vice President for Research Development and Industry Analysis Mark Mathews said. “Shoppers are busier with commuting to work, dealing with family obligations or catching up on schoolwork, among other things. Naturally, convenience factors are playing a larger role in their shopping experience.”

According to the report, 83% of consumers say convenience while shopping is more important to them now compared with five years ago. While consumers overwhelmingly opt for quality and price in purchasing decisions, convenience offers retailers a competitive advantage. The report found 97% of respondents have backed out of a purchase because it was inconvenient for them.

The popularity of delivery services like Amazon Prime, Shipt or Instacart reinforce consumers’ willingness to pay – often at a premium – for convenience. Sixty-six percent of shoppers pay for at least one type of delivery service, and one-quarter say they pay for multiple delivery services.

The report also found that how consumers are shopping and where they are in the purchase process can dictate how much convenience matters. For example, 38% said that for online shopping, convenience matters most during the beginning of the shopping experience when consumers are researching products and trying to determine which option is best for them. Alternatively, 40% of in-store shoppers said checkout is when convenience is most important. Additionally, consumers prioritize convenience for certain types of purchases, specifically when it comes to everyday items such as groceries, personal care items and pet supplies.

Retailers have anticipated consumers’ needs in these areas by offering a variety of innovations such as buy online, pick up in store and two-day shipping. These options can contribute to brand loyalty, as 93% say they are more likely to choose to shop at a specific retailer based on convenience.

“While convenience continues to grow in importance for consumers, there is not a one-size-fits-all solution,” Mathews said. “As the industry evolves, retailers will look to identify additional ways to save consumers time and effort.”

Consumer View is a recurring report issued by NRF that gauges consumer behavior and shopping trends related to stores, online channels, customer loyalty, technology and other topics. Using Toluna Analytics, the study surveyed 2,949 U.S. adults 18 or older Oct. 2-29. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive.  

NRF welcome Senate passage of USMCA

Marc Bruxelle/Getty Images US, Canada, Mexico flags

The National Retail Federation welcomed the Senate's passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

“The world has changed dramatically since the United States, Canada and Mexico first agreed to tear down barriers to free trade a quarter-century ago,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This updated agreement will modernize trade among our closest trading partners and pave the way for continued prosperity across the borders of North America as the global economy continues to evolve. This agreement will support the millions of U.S. jobs that depend on free trade with Canada and Mexico and will ensure the continued availability of affordable everyday necessities for American families.”

NRF has been a leading supporter of the administration’s efforts to modernize the North American Free Trade Agreement. Shay cited provisions on digital trade, customs procedures and trade facilitation as key improvements in the new agreement.

The USMCA was approved by the House in December and now goes to President Trump for his signature.

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive.

NRF says 2019 holiday sales were up 4.1%


Holiday retail sales during 2019 grew 4.1% over the same period in 2018 to $730.2 billion, the National Retail Federation said today. The numbers exclude automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants. Online and other non-store sales were up 14.6% over the year before at $167.8 billion and are included in the total.

“Having spent the last week with top retail leaders from around the world at our annual convention, and spending time at the White House yesterday with government policymakers and economists, these numbers validate continued optimism for increased investment and opportunity in the retail industry,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “This is a consumer-driven economy, and by any measure, the consumer has put the economy in a solid position for continued growth. This is a strong finish to the holiday season, and we think it’s a positive indicator of what’s ahead.”

NRF forecast in October that 2019 holiday sales during November and December would increase between 3.8% and 4.2% for a total of between $727.9 billion and $730.7 billion. The forecast called for online sales to increase between 11% and 14% to between $162.6 billion and $166.9 billion.

The growth rate reported today is nearly double the weak 2.1% seen during the 2018 holiday season, which was slowed by a government shutdown, stock market volatility and interest rate hikes. Sales during December 2018 were down 0.2% from the year before.

“This was a healthy holiday season, especially compared with the decline in retail sales we saw at the end of the season in 2018,” NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said. “Despite a late Thanksgiving and worries about tariffs, the consumer didn’t go away. We’ve had months of strong employment numbers, high wages and strong household balance sheets. There’s no doubt that gave consumers a sense of confidence about their ability to spend, and they did their part to keep the economy moving.”

Retail sales in December 2019 alone increased 0.5% seasonally adjusted over November and were up 6.7% unadjusted year-over-year.

December’s results follow November’s decline of 0.1% month-over-month and increase of 1.3% year-over-year. As of December, the three-month moving average was up 4.1% over the same period a year ago, compared with 3.1% in November.

Kleinhenz said the modest growth in November and the large increase in December came partly because two key days of the Thanksgiving shopping weekend – the Sunday and also Cyber Monday – fell in December this year.

NRF’s numbers are based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which said today that overall December sales – including auto dealers, gas stations and restaurants – were up 0.3% seasonally adjusted from November and up 5.8% unadjusted year-over-year.

Specifics from key retail sectors during the November-December holiday season include:

  • Online and other non-store sales were up 14.6% year-over-year.
  • Grocery and beverage stores were up 2.9% year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishings stores were up 2.6% year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores were up 1.6% year-over-year.
  • Building materials and garden supply stores were up 1% year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores were up 0.4% year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods stores were down 0.4% year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessory stores were down 1.6% year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores were down 2% year-over-year.

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, passionately advocates for the people, brands, policies and ideas that help retail thrive.

Study shows seismic shift in pet product sales underway

Study shows seismic shift in pet product sales underway

Remember the sock puppet that was the advertising mascot of Pets.com, an early online pet products store?  The sock puppet and Pets.com met an early demise, but perhaps it was just ahead of its time.  According to a new study, 31% of pet owners are sourcing at least some of their pet products online.

“Pet Health Products: Changing Channels” is a new study just released by Brakke Consulting.  Based on two national surveys, one of pet owners, the other of veterinarians, the study not only documents the rapid migration of pet product sales to online sources, it also shows that veterinarians are missing out on a significant piece of the market that is readily available to them.

“According to our veterinarian survey, nearly two thirds of veterinary practices offer online purchasing and home delivery,” according to Robert Jones, PhD, president of Brakke Consulting.  “But only one-third of clients are aware of the service.  While about one in five pet owners are purchasing pet health products online from their veterinarian, an additional 25% would readily do so if their veterinarian offered online shopping and they were aware of the service.”

Leading online retailers are making a big play for veterinarians’ pet product sales, according to the study. They include Chewy.com, Amazon.com and 1800PetMeds. Several other companies compete for the market as well but the quick rise of Chewy to lead these online retailers is striking.

“Pet Health Products: Changing Channels” explores purchasing patterns for several types of products traditionally sourced at the veterinary clinic:  flea and tick control, heartworm preventives, dental chews, pain management medications, joint supplements, pilling treats and therapeutic pet foods. Online retailers are making their greatest inroads into flea-tick products, heartworm preventives and therapeutic diets, according to the study.

One weakness for veterinarians may be their service providers. Online sales and home delivery for veterinary clinics are primarily handled by three companies: Covetrus, a public company, VetSource, a private firm, and MyVetStore, a service of Midwest Veterinary Supply. Only one earned a positive “Net Promoter Score” from veterinarian clients. Conversely, Chewy.com and Amazon.com both have high NPS scores from their customers. 

Another factor at play in channel use is demographics. Of pet owners 55 years old or more, 89% consider the veterinarian the most trusted source of information about pets, whereas only 5% say the same about online sources. But for pet owners 18-34 years of age, only about half consider the veterinarian the most trusted source of information.Twenty nine percent put more trust in online sources. Younger consumers are also the most oriented to online purchasing.

The complete 263-page “Pet Health Products: Changing Channels” is available for $10,000 by contacting John Volk at Brakke Consulting at [email protected] or at 773-327-4941.


About Brakke Consulting

Brakke Consulting is a leading management consulting firm serving the global animal health, animal nutrition and veterinary industries.   Headquartered in Greensboro, NC, the firm also has offices in Chicago, Dallas, Fort Collins, CO, Kansas City, Omaha and Tokyo, Japan.

Products as seen at January's WESA Market

Boasting more lines in Western apparel and accessories, tack, leather goods, animal health, English apparel and equipment, and equestrian-related home décor, gifts, and jewelry all under one roof, the WESA Trade Show, held Jan. 10-13 in Denver, offered educational seminars and access to more than 550 exhibitors in some 234,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space.

Here are some of the products highlighted during this year's show. 

Sales influence starts with you, your team

We caught up with Merit Kahn following her first business seminar here at WESA in Denver. And, yes, we talked pink hats as well as sales influencers.

Sales influence starts with you, your team

To be more influential with others, you first need to understand what has influence over you, and that is especially true if you are a retailer and you want to influence sales in your store and how your team approaches the sale, said Merit Kahn of Merit-based Professional Development in the opening business session of the International Western/English Apparel & Equipment Market in Denver, Colo., in mid-January.

Kahn has experience and certifications in both emotional intelligence and cultural transformation giving her a unique perspective on sales, leadership, communication, change and success.

When determining what products to bring into your store, Kahn told retailers to consider if a product solves a problem for your customer as well as its feature and benefits. “Consumers buy things for different reasons,” she said, noting that it is critical to listen to what the customer is really looking for when they come into the store.

That listening process, according to Kahn, starts with how you and your team first greet a customer. Rather than asking if you can help them, she suggests leading with a greeting that is more along the lines of “Are you open to seeing some of the new things in the store?” or “Are you open to seeing what we have that I think you might like?”

Kahn used a pink hat as an example. Saying that as a customer she might come into the store looking for a pink hat but that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t be open to other hats if they too made her look cute. It’s about opening a customer’s mind and then getting them to buy when they are in the store rather than going elsewhere or online as they finalize their decision.

Given that there is a direct relationship between how one sells and how one buys, Kahn recommends asking each of your store’s sales associates to tell you how they buy and make purchase decisions. This is very telling and provides insight into what excuses that employee will accept from a customer in the buying process. It is important to recognize those gaps and close them, she said.

Critical to any retail operation is a good new employee onboarding process. Kahn said if you don’t have a training program then you are left looking for an employee that is already good at selling and that really limits the candidate pool.

Once an employee is brought on board it is important to teach them the culture of the business. They need to understand that integrity and customer service, for instance, are what all decisions are based on. They need to understand that it is about going the extra mile for customers, said Kahn. She also recommends getting a new employee with the rest of the team on the very first day. Building connections amongst the team is an important first step and also helps you as the manager determine if you made a good hire that is going to fit in and help grow the business.

View our interview with Merit Kahn.

NRF calls for block of California law on employment disputes


The National Retail Federation (NRF) has called on a federal judge to issue a preliminary injunction to continue to block a California law that would prohibit employers from requiring workers to agree to arbitration of employment issues.

“Arbitration is an easier and more flexible way of resolving employment disputes that offers the exact same remedies as the expensive and overburdened court system,” NRF Vice President for Government Relations and Workforce Development Lizzy Simmons said. “California’s effort to keep employers and workers from benefiting from the advantages of arbitration would result in more class-action lawsuits that would benefit trial lawyers instead. The judge ruled properly that there are serious questions about the California law and she should continue to keep this misguided measure from taking effect.”

“Even though it applies to only one state, this law brazenly conflicts with federal law in a very large market with a sizable number of employers and employees,” Simmons said. “It would drive up litigation and costs for any retailer that does business there regardless of where they are based, and could result in copycat legislation elsewhere if left unchecked.”

U.S. District Judge Kimberly Mueller issued a temporary restraining order in late December barring Assembly Bill 51 from being implemented on Jan. 1 as scheduled. The Sacramento-based judge is scheduled to hold a hearing Friday on a preliminary injunction that could block the law indefinitely while litigation against it is pending.

The court action comes in a lawsuit filed against the measure in early December by NRF and other business groups. The lawsuit argues that state-level anti-arbitration laws are preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act and notes that that the U.S. Supreme Court has supported federal preemption of such laws.

Signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October, A.B. 51 would bar companies from requiring job applicants and workers to agree to mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment.

In addition to addressing the California law, NRF is opposed to the Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act, legislation in Congress that would prohibit the use of arbitration for employment, civil rights, consumer and anti-trust disputes. The FAIR Act passed the House in September.

Workers who use arbitration to settle employment claims win almost three times as often as those who go to court (32% compared with 11%), according to a 2019 study by NDP Analytics. The same study found that those using arbitration were awarded an average $520,630 compared with $269,885 in court and resolved their cases in an average 569 days compared with 665.