Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

If it's new and it's happening at Robinsons, you'll find it here. Keep checking here to stay fully up-to-date with the latest developments at the UK's biggest and best equestrian provider!

The Retail Sale: What's Instore In The Stores?

For the first time ever, we've decided to hold a Retail equivalent of our Spring Sale at the same time.  That means that the Sale dates are the same for all our customers, everywhere.  We think that this should minimise the potential for any confusion and uncertainty.  It's much nicer to be able to say 'Sale Starts Tuesday 24th May' without having to add any qualifiers. Of course, some things will have to be slightly different.  For example, opening times are not quite as easy to harmonise - nor is it always necessary.  We also can't say that all items in the catalogue will always be availble in all stores.  Some are only available in enough number to put in the catalogue alone and those that we can send to each store may be snapped up more quickly at one store than the others. We're very conscious that this has the effect of denying our retail customers some of the bargains that are available to other customers elsewhere.  To attempt to redress this balance, we've decided to make extra instore-only offers over the two weekends of the Sale: For the first weekend (extended into the half-term week**), we're offering 20% off Mountain Horse, Joules, Caldene, Fenceman, Masta, Supreme Products, Veredus, Thorowgood, Shires, Just Togs and Dublin.  The discounts will take effect at all stores between Friday 27th May and Wednesday 1st June. The following weekend, Friday 3rd June to Monday 6th June, we'll be offering 20% off Weatherbeeta, Ariat, GFS, Harry Hall, Airowear, Wintec, Toggi, Horseware, Amigo and Rambo.  We'll also be actively marking down unsold Sale items in an attampt to sell it before the Sale ends on Monday 6th June. Here's a bit of disclaimer text, which we'll not call 'small-print' because it's frankly more honest if we encourage you to read it:  The links are to our web selection for these brands and are just to give you an idea of which items may be reduced at your local store.  They do not reflect what is available at each store.  In some cases, there may even be more choice at your local store than is the case online.  The 20% off offer does not apply in the case of other Sale reductions in either weekend.  Thanks! Finally, if you're looking to visit one of our stores, here's a bit more information with a few helpful links which may be useful to you: If you're planning to visit the Ashton Megastore, put WN4 9PJ into your SatNav and check for any traffic problems from the BBC travel pages: >  travelling from the North (Lancashire) >  travelling from the South (Cheshire) >  travelling from the West (Liverpool) >  travelling from the East (Manchester) If you're planning to visit the Basingstoke Megastore, put RG23 8BB into your SatNav and check for any traffic problems from the BBC travel pages: >  travelling from the South and West (Hampshire) >  travelling from the North (Berkshire) >  travelling from the East (Surrey) If you're planning to visit the Cannock Superstore, put WS11 0XF into your SatNav and check for any traffic problems from the BBC travel pages: >  travelling from the North (Stoke) >  reavelling from the South (Birmingham & Black Country) If you're planning to visit the Cardiff Store, put CF15 8LB into your SatNav and check for any traffic problems from the BBC travel pages.** 'half-term week', as it seems to be observed by most local education authorities.  We appreciate that some schools may break for half-term over a different week.

Cardiff Store Open!

We're delighted to announce that our fourth store at Cardiff is now open! Located at Pugh's Garden Village at Morganstown, just off Junction 32 of the M4, it may 'only' be 4,000 square feet, but we still think that makes it the largest equestrian-only store in Wales. We're delighted to open a store in Wales and we've been amazed at the warmth of the welcome we've received.  In Pugh's, we've also found a wonderful site, popular and easy to find.  The whole team at Pugh's have been extremely helpful so far and we're very proud to be a part of their village. As you'll see from the pictures below, we've done all we can to make the interior look as similar as possible to our other stores.  We wanted it to feel like a Robinsons store - and in doing so, make it feel different to anywhere else.  Of course, it's been a tough job scaling down our huge range to fit in a space a quarter of the size of our Ashton (and Basingstoke) store.  We think we've managed it - and time will tell if we've got it right - but we'll be watching our stocks and listening to customers carefully over the coming weeks to make sure that the right products are being offered - in the right quantities. We hope you like it and we invite you to let us know what you think.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures of the store:

Quick reminder...

Don't forget, our End-of-Season Sale starts online at 6am tomorrow morning (18th). I'll be in, together with our IT team, to check everything's running smoothly. To be fair, the last two have been fantastically smooth with the site never looking like it was under pressure, despite the vast number of visitors it was dealing with. As ever, if you have any problems to report or indeed anything encouraging to feedback, your comments are more than welcome! Happy shopping!

Against All Odds: 25 Years of Robinsons Mail Order

To mark our 25th Anniversary in Mail Order, we've written a short presentation to explain how and why we started to offer our products this way, the challenges we've faced over the years and our thoughts for the future.   You can find it at www.robinsons-uk.com/25 and I hope you'll find it as interesting to read as we did to write.   If you're having trouble with the flash version or if you just want to read the transcript, here it is:   Believe it or not, 2009 marks a quarter of a century since Robinsons - then Robinsons Equestrian & Country Sports - first ventured into the world of Mail Order.  Back when Phil Collins was in the charts, singing “Take a look at me now”, our own journey to becoming ‘The UK’s No.1 Equestrian Provider’ really was Against All Odds...   The year was 1984.  The Cold War was in its final days, the world was just becoming acquainted with a singer called Madonna - and Cristiano Ronaldo was still a glint in his parents' eyes.  The Terminator and Ghostbusters were the big films of the year and ‘Frankie Say Relax’ T-shirts were all the rage.   In the equestrian world, Britain won team silver medals in both Showjumping and Eventing at the Los Angeles Olympics.  Ginny Leng, Lucinda Green, Ian Stark and Michael and John Whitaker were part of the medal-winning teams.  Hallo Dandy won the Grand National and Nelson Pessoa won the Puissance at Wembley at the Horse of the Year Show.   It was also the year that the very first Robinsons ‘Bulletin' appeared, a two-colour A4 leaflet given away free at county shows such as the Bath & West, Great Yorkshire and Royal Highland.  Visitors to these shows who were often once-a-year Robinsons customers were invited to place telephone orders and have their purchases posted to them as often as they liked.   Over the next two years, the popularity of this idea began to grow.  So much so, that by October 1985, we decided not to continue to exhibit on the show circuit and to concentrate our resources into Mail Order.  In 1987, we launched our first full-scale catalogue, inserting it into Horse & Pony magazine.  Inexperienced as we were, we had agreed to have the catalogue stapled into the magazine, not loosely-inserted.  As many readers considered it to be part of the magazine, its publishers received as many orders as we did!    Thankfully, we learned from our mistakes and our sales continued to grow.  We began to produce Spring catalogues and started to do our own photography wherever possible.  For many years, we were unable to handle the demand we created and if we felt we would be over-stretched, the only way to manage the situation was to print fewer catalogues!  We were still operating our service from the back of our Ashton store.   By the end of the 80’s, we had already begun to develop our own products and we are proud to be one of the very first companies to offer high-visibility riding wear.  We were also among the first companies to feature innovative new products, like the exciting new Rambo rug from Ireland and the Wintec saddle from Australia.   In 1992, we had outgrown the store and we moved our Mail Order operation to a much bigger warehouse in nearby Haydock.  With more space for more stock, we were able to increase the size of our catalogues – although keeping on top of the orders was still harder than winning them!    In 1993, one of the many new products we introduced to the UK was an idea we’d seen in the USA - a pair of novelty antlers that attached to a bridle or headcollar.  Since then, we’ve sold tens of thousands of this item, now a staple product of any horsey Christmas!   In 1995, at the first-ever Your Horse awards, we won the category for ‘Best Mail Order company’, a feat we repeated each year over the next nine years, for as long as the category was awarded.  We had the biggest catalogues, the best prices and every year we invested more into our systems.    1995 also saw us create a few online pages of information which hardly anyone ever saw – before many people had even heard of the internet.  Eventually, this became www.robcl.co.uk, our first website.   As the new millennium dawned, we realised that we had to move to a bigger warehouse once again and we relocated to Mill Lane in Rainford.  At around twice the size of our previous Haydock home, this site also offered better facilites for our in-house catalogue design team, our call centre, our new IT department and it also allowed us to create a fully-equipped photographic studio.  In less than five years, our three web pages had developed into a professional website, offering product listing, photography and order processing   While we always knew that the long-term future of Mail Order would lay on the web, it was not obvious how long the transition would take.  Whatever was to happen, we knew we would keep producing catalogues for as far into the future as we could see – and that’s still the case today.  In 2001, we took our millionth order, fittingly over the web, although challenges of a different nature lay around the corner…   After another 6 years of growth at Rainford, interrupted by the fire and subsequent rebuilding of our Ashton Superstore, our Mail Order requirements once again left us looking for a new home.  In 2005, we moved to our current location, the 100,000 sq.ft. facility at Ashton, just a couple of miles from our Superstore.  Crucially, the first department to move in to their customised area was the IT team, with all our servers and equipment.   The internet has brought us more competition from the thousands of ebay sellers to the might of Tesco.  More international trade and other competitors have given much more buying choices to the equestrian consumer.  As a result of that and due to our own improvements, we’re now handling orders much more easily than we are winning them, which is far more appropriate for a company that you’d be happy to use again and again.  If you’re waiting for your order, we know you expect it to arrive as quickly as possible - however busy we may be.   Over the last few years, we have made great efforts to ensure that we can handle our huge Sale campaigns as easily as possible - the only times when we were unable to keep up with the demand we created.  On first day of the last Winter Sale, we proved that we could even manage to do that.  That day, we made more sales than our Ashton Superstore took in the whole month!  Just as we had promised, every order taken by 7pm that day was sent in time to arrive by Christmas!    As we continue to grow, we now have contacts all over the world.  We compare our performance against much bigger companies from other industries and we continue to aspire to their levels of service.  It’s not enough for us to make our website better than any other equestrian site - we measure it against sites like amazon.co.uk.  The same is true in every other area.  We have for many years held the view that if we can match the standards of the biggest and the best in the world, we have no need to worry about what our direct competitors can offer.    We’ve come a long way in 25 years.  We’ve learned so much about the processes involved and we’ve watched many, many companies in our industry come and go.   Of course we’ve made mistakes over the years and it’s fair to say that we’ve annoyed our fair share of people along the way.  When we’ve done something wrong, we’ve always endeavoured to put it right because we’ve always appreciated that keeping the customer is more important than winning the order.    We’ve seen recessions and booms before and we’ll be around to see them all again in the years to come and we will not compromise on our ethos of fairness and honesty in our dealings with customers and suppliers   What will happen in the next 25 years?  If we knew the answer to that, we’d be preparing for it today but you can be sure that we never take our eye off the future.  We have made a reputation within our industry of being at the forefront of change and we will continue to adopt the pioneering spirit that has served us so well, so far.  Whatever happens, we hope you’d like to continue to be part of our journey over the next quarter of a century.   We hope we’ve impressed you at some point in the past and we’d very much like the chance to do so again some time.  We’ve spent a long time getting to know just what it is you’re looking for, in our product range or in the way we deal with you and we’re always here to prove our abilities to you.  With apologies to Ronald Duncan’s ‘Ode to The Horse’, the verse read out at the Horse of the Year Show each year, all our history is in your industry.  We are your heirs, your custom is our inheritance.  Where in this world can you find anything to compare?   On behalf of everyone in the Mail Order team, Thank you!

New VAT reduced prices online now

On 24 November, Alistair Darling announced a cut in VAT from 17.5% to 15% effective from 1 December 2008. We are keen to pass this reduction on to our customers as soon as possible, so instead of waiting till Monday, we have already applied this reduction to all our vatable products and adjusted our prices accordingly. Our website now states prices before and after the VAT reduction so you can see exactly what your saving is. Remember these savings only apply to vatable products so children's clothing, food and book prices will be unaffected.