Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

Will You 'Dare to be Dublin' First?

Dublin clothing and footwear have always promised riders great value for money, offering a reliable performance at a competitive price. It's an enduringly popular range which has probably graced every stable yard in the country at some point or other. And yet, part of this rather solid, dependable range of riding wear has decided to become a little less solid, much more technically competent and a bit more, well, daring. It seems as though in the area of riding footwear, changes are afoot! There's a brand new range of Dublin riding footwear, about to be launched in the UK at Badminton Horse Trials next month.  As you can see, these new items are meticulously designed and employ a level of technology that you'd expect to see in boots that are significantly more expensive - and Robinsons are among the very select few places where you can buy from the new range, before they're officially launched! Have a look at this 'Dare to be Dublin' teaser video that Dublin have put on YouTube.  It's already been viewed over 20,000 times and seems to be attracting lots of Likes.   By the way, if you're concerned the colour's a bit too daring for your liking,  the range on offer will not all be in red patent leather - they will also come in standard black and brown.  On the other hand, if you quite like the idea of daring to go for the shiny red option, a limited number will be available! The items in the range are: The Dublin Edge Boots The Dublin Defy Half Chap The Dublin Defy Zip Jodhpur Boots The Dublin Defy Jodhpur Boots The Dublin Intensity Gaiter (available in red patent, while stocks last) The Dublin Intensity Zip Jodhpur Boots (available in red patent, while stocks last) The Dublin Intensity Jodhpur Boots 

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:

Robinsons and the Royal Mail: What You Need to Know…

As you may have seen on the news, the country is about to face a period of strikes by postal workers. Naturally, you’ll be concerned that all mail order will therefore become totally unreliable and to be honest, who could blame you? If you’re still reading at this point, please allow me to explain what we’ve done to ensure that Robinsons is unaffected by the strikes as much as we possibly can be. I’ve tried to keep this information as short and to-the-point as I can: Suspension of all Standard Packets sent via Royal Mail As soon as the Communication Workers’ Union held a ballot which gave them the opportunity to plan strikes, we knew we had to transfer our business to other carriers. From Monday 19th October right through until Christmas (and possibly beyond), we will therefore be sending all our standard packets out via The Home Delivery Network, using their 24 hour delivery service. This decision comes at quite a substantial cost to us, which we will not be passing on to you. We felt that as long as we can keep your confidence, the extra cost will be worth avoiding hundreds or maybe thousands of lost orders. Just to clarify, the 24 hours described above relates to the time it takes to leave our mailing room to arrival with you. It’s not quite the same as our £9.95 Express Delivery service, which for orders placed before 12 noon (Monday to Thursday), promises a 24 hour delivery from the time you order until arrival with you. I hope I’ve been able to explain the distinction well enough. Where we may still have to depend on Royal Mail Sadly, it’s a little more complicated than simply transferring all our delivery business elsewhere. There are some occasions where we may have no option but to continue to use Royal Mail. These instances will be quite specific parts of our business like overseas delivery of small parcels, affecting very few customers. Unfortunately, if you’re one of those customers, this comes as no consolation at all. Even then, we will continue to look for alternatives if the Royal Mail service is unworkable. Aside from the goods we send out, I’m sure you’ll also know that we send out catalogues from time to time. In early December, we will produce our Winter Sale 2009 catalogue, as we do every year, mailing it to hundreds of thousands of customers. In recent years, we have moved away from using the Royal Mail to collect these catalogues from us once they are printed. Unfortunately, because this is still standard ‘letter post’, the industry still works on the basis that the Royal Mail always handle the mail over the ‘final mile’ of the delivery. It is financially impossible for us to by-pass them, using couriers, on such volumes and we are just not big enough to use our own network of local agents to deliver catalogues like (for example) Next do. Again, we are looking at our alternatives and we also hope that the dispute – or at least the industrial action - may have been resolved by then. All we can say is that we’ll keep you post… er, make that informed. Robinsons and the Royal Mail: What We’d Like You to Know… Okay, this bit is more about how the dispute affects us than about how it affects you but as you’re still reading, I have a couple of things to say that might interest you. Since 2007, Robinsons have been members of The Catalogue Exchange, a not-for-profit organisation which represents the interests of companies who trade via catalogues. By a strange quirk of fate (or perhaps it was deliebrarely done so), the decision to strike was announced on the second day of our industry’s biggest trade fair*. Between us, the members of CatEx (as we all call it) represent hundreds of millions of pounds of revenue to the Royal Mail and our combined voice is being used to pressurise both sides of the dispute. Our very capable President is Nigel Swabey, the Chairman of a number of well-known catalogue companies including, currently, Scott’s & Co and he has done a number of press interviews to put our case. In a recession, every business is expecting to fight harder to even match last year’s performance. Those of us who depend on a reliable postal system face having to do so with a huge extra burden to deal with. For many (like us), the dangers are of wasted opportunities, which is bad enough. For some, it could make the difference between survival and failure. Please don’t take the impression that we (Robinsons) are fighting for survival – As we expect to illustrate quite soon, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Are we concerned that our business could be severely affected by this action? Of course we are. Any other company who depends on mail order (including all the website operators) would be lying if they said anything else. Okay, that’s it. Rant over. Even though this is our blog and in theory we could rant about anything on here, I promise you I’d rather not do that, normally. After all, I would like you to want to come back here occasionally and that’s unlikely to happen if we fill the blog with industry moans when all you really want from us is to know that our range is wide, our prices are reasonable and our service is reliable. I hope you appreciate that these are rather unusual circumstances and it is important to me and to us all here at Robinsons that you do not lose confidence in the service we can provide to you. What use is a mail order service, however good it may be, if it lacks the credibility to inspire your confidence? We never take your confidence for granted and we do all we can to retain it. Unfortunately, we realise that this time, the actions of others may affect that and all we can do is promise you the same level of service you expected from us before. Thanks for reading! Paul. *If you watched the BBC’s lunchtime 1 o’clock News on October 8th, you will have seen me, just for a second, in shot behind Hugh Pym while he was reporting on the strike story from Earl’s Court. Not that impressive, I know, but true all the same…

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!

Oliver Townend Wins Express Eventing

The inaugural Express Eventing International Cup has been won by Oliver Townend riding Edward and Robert Nicholson's Flint Curtis. The £100,000 prize money to the winning rider was hard earned after a challenging competition involving Dressage to Music, followed by a combined show jumping and cross country phase with a pit stop between the two stages for riders to change their equipment. Lucy Wiegersma came second with William Fox-Pitt taking third place. Although not as many tickets were sold as the organisers had hoped, the atmosphere in the Millenium Stadium was still enthusiastic and everyone was excited to see the day's action. This mood was enhanced by the initial Dressage stage being set to music. Riders had to compile their own interpretation of the required dressage movements not only so that the test was the correct length but also that they and the horse were in time with the music they'd chosen. The riders choice of music was varied, some choosing classical or indigenous music, while others chose more popular tunes by bands like ABBA and Survivor. Judges Arlene Phillips and Andrew Lloyd Webber commented on the way in which riders and horses interpreted the music, while dressage judges marked the horses movements and paces. The show jumping course proved difficult with many riders incurring penalties through knock downs. Several riders took the wrong course, resulting in them being eliminated before attempting the cross country phase. The pit stop changes proved troublesome for some of the riders as they struggled to change out of their showjumping jackets and into their body protectors and cross country colours. Times in the 'pits' varied from an astounding 30 seconds by Oliver Townend to a less impressive 1 minute by Eventing Legend Mark Todd. The cross country phase of the competition was particularly demanding on horse and rider, again remembering the course was an issue for several riders. There were difficult combinations which some riders struggled with, resulting in many being eliminated for 3 disobediences. Some riders were helped massively by their horses. William Fox-Pitt being one of them, my seat was in the perfect position to see how Ballincoola jumped the third part of the brush combination by his own free will. After an uncomfortable jump at 9b William wasn't in a position to guide his horse but Ballincoola chose to jump and William luckily stayed with him. With only 6 out of the 19 competitors completing the final phase, the event proved to be as tough as any top 3 Day Event. For anyone watching, it has to be said that the atmosphere throughout the jumping stages was electric, the whole crowd got behind every horse and huge cheers accompanied every rider as they completed any difficult section of the course. The top three riders and horses absolutely deserved their places, William Fox Pitt set the standard with a fabulous but lucky cross country round, Lucy Wiegersma rode a determined round with Shaabrak proving his Olympic potential by staying as straight and honest as possible at every jump. When Ollie Townend set off on his show jumping round though it was clear he meant business, he rode every jump with a precision and determination not shown by any other rider. His pit stop was controlled and efficient meaning he saved 15 seconds on the time allowed. As he set off on the cross country phase it was immediately obvious that the lead was in serious danger, he instantly cut corners to save every precious second he could. He galloped on every straight stretch of ground but still negotiated the difficult jumps with the respect and care needed to get over safely. Flint Curtis jumped with absolute perfection and took strides out at every slightly easier fence to fly over like a racehorse. His round was an amazing 40 seconds faster than second placed Lucy Wiegersma and his celebration after the last fence showed how he knew someone would have to do something spectacular to beat him. After such a fantastic day and a fabulous competition, there was was the most devastating of finishes when Mary King's Call Again Cavalier fell at the second part of fence 12. As he struggled to his feet it was obvious to everyone that he was seriously injured and a respectful silence fell around the whole stadium. He received immediate veterinary attention and was led into the horse ambulance to be treated as quickly as possible. Tragically he is believed to have sustained a broken femur in the fall and had to be put to sleep.  Call Again Cavalier's wins were many and he partnered Mary King to some fantastic achievements culminating in a team bronze at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Mary and Call Again Cavalier's owners, Mr and Mrs Davies and Mrs Chin.

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.

Ready for Lift-Off!

As our new Cannock Superstore nears its much anticipated-opening date, I've decided to add some pictures. If you're getting ready to visit, we're looking forward to seeing you! The front of the Superstore, with impressive illuminated sign! Store Manager Adrian Chapman and his team prepare for the big day The Dog Section, looking down past Medical, Supplements, Grooming, Clipping and Stable Equipment Jodhpurs, looking towards the till are and Entrance/Exit 'Kimble' the rug model looks out at Riding wear and beyond towards Leisurewear The horse and carriage in the Saddlery and Driving area look out towards the till area and Gift section The till area and Entrance/Exit are home to magazines and a selection of tasty treats for horse and humans alike! So, as you can see, we're ready to welcome you to the store. We really hope it's what you've been expecting and much more besides. If you have any comments, please let Adrian and his team know or post them on this blog. As I said in my last blog, it's a hugely exciting time for us - even if the the rest of the retail world seems to be worried about the future. We hope you're as excited as we are!

New Catalogue Out In August!

Our new Autumn/Winter Catalogue is out next month!  It’s 228 pages long and packed with some superb products for you, your home, your horse, your stable and even your dog. As well as all the old favourites, you’ll find plenty of new innovative ideas, great new brands and of course the usual amazing prices.  We also now offer an exclusive range of carriages which are both stylish and affordable! You can request your copy online or by phone from Friday 1st August.