Equestrian Blog

News and thoughts from around the equestrian community

While the News category is for brief updates and 'coming soon'-type announcements, this is the place to find articles which will hopefully give you a better insight into the direction at Robinsons....

Spot the Deliberate Mistake!

Well, it's early August and that can only mean one thing: our new Autumn Winter Catalogue is back from the printers. As I type, hundreds of thousands of copies are sat in various warehouses around the country waiting to be mailed or inserted into copies of magazines. It's usually the time of year when our catalogue production team take a deep breath and pat each other on the back for another job well done - and finished on time. And yet, this year there is a slight blemish on our record, an irritating imperfection that will always be there to taunt us. This year, we made a bit of a mistake. It's not a huge mistake in the scheme of things and it could have been avoided but it's enough to dent our pride a little and it falls to me to explain to you, dear reader, why we kept it in. When you receive your copy, turn to pages 2 and 3 and you'll see the same information repeated on both pages. Unfortunately, we had to make some minor alterations to the page at the last minute (which is why they're not identical) and somehow the amended version was saved as Page 3, not Page 2 as it should have been.  By the time we realised the error, the pages had been printed. We could have reprinted either the first section of the catalogue or the cover pages and we seriously considered it, even though the costs would have been quite high.  The reason we chose not to reprint was that there would not have been enough time to get more paper - and have the mailing sent out - in time for the End-of-Season Sale (the Sale Catalogue will be mailed with the Autumn/Winter).  As soon as the Sale deadline was threatened, we decided that we should accept a little egg on our faces if it means that every customer still has the chance to order anything they like from our Sale before it sells out. From my own point of view, I have mixed feelings.  Yes, it makes us look a bit daft and I feel that only a liar would say that they have no sense of pride or ego.  Also, the four or five products that were planned to appear on Page 3 will need to be offered some other way or we'll have too much stock - you'll know them when you see them because the picture they appear on was the one we used to make the silhouette on our front cover.  On the other hand, I had been really keen to completely re-write the stuff that used to appear on Page 3 of past catalogues.  It was all worthy stuff but I couldn't help thinking that it was getting a bit bland, a bit repetetive and too easy to ignore.  As I've said on our Facebook group, the size of our warehouse and the amount of stock it holds are the things that impress our visitors the most and I felt we needed to make that known to everyone.  At least now, the new page will be twice as hard to miss, however infamous the reason! Anyway, what's most important is that once again, we've provided you with the widest range, the keenest prices and the easiest way of ordering.  Our  levels of service are continuing to improve (see pages 2&3!) and I'll write more about that on a blog soon.  I hope you like the catalogue and I'm even happy for you to have a bit of a chuckle at our expense.  I'll be even happier if you see something you like in there as well!

Hanging on the Telephone?

UPDATE:  As of 9:40 this morning (30th Jan), our phone lines are back on!  Our Call Centre team are now ready and waiting to hear from you.  We offer our sincere apologies to anyone inconvenienced by this failure, caused by a traffic accident in our local area.   This being a technical matter, experience tells us that services may still take time to stabilise.  If you continue to experience any difficulties on any of our telephone lines, please contact customer.service@robinsons-uk.com and we'll take the appropriate action.  Thanks for your patience. _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ If you've been trying to call us this week, wondering why we haven't picked up, don't worry - we're still here! On Tuesday afternoon, a car crashed into one of those metal cabinets you often see by the side of the road, a telephone substation which just happened to contain the circuitry that carries all our telephone lines. Despite repeated assurances that the service will be resumed, we are still unable to make or receive external calls from our Head Office and Call Centre in Bryn.  Furthermore, as we operate the lines to our stores from here, this outage also affects the lines at Ashton and at Cannock. Please bear with us while we wait for service to return.  We are naturally as keen to return to normal connectivity as you are.  We appreciate that this situation has been caused by an accident but we are increasingly frustrated by the network operator's continuing difficulties in returning the service to normal.  It would be churlish to name them, but let's just say that we won't be buying any train or airline tickets from them anytime soon!   I promise that we'll do all we can to get make our phones available to take you call.  In the words of Blondie (now touring again, according to their website), I'll leave you with these words for now:  Oh why can't we talk again Oh why can't we talk again Oh why can't we talk again Don't leave me hanging on the telephone Don't leave me hanging on the telephone

Don’t let the Ba - d News Grind You Down!

Happy New Year! We’re all hearing how difficult a year 2009 will be for consumers and businesses alike and I have to say that we’re a little concerned about it all. We’re concerned that you may think we’re suffering from the ‘credit crunch’ like everyone else. In fact, this is year of optimism for us, especially as this year, we celebrate 25 years in Mail Order. That’s right. In 1984, we took the first steps into distance-selling, primarily to the once-a-year customers we’d meet at the many shows we were exhibiting at back then. Over that time, like most mail order companies, we’ve made plenty of mistakes – some of them horrendous. Importantly, we learned from our successes and failures and here we are, a quarter of a century later, still the largest in the country at what we do. I heard an interview this morning with Sir Stuart Rose, the Executive Chairman of Marks and Spencer – a man who always seems to say what I’m thinking and he was doing the usual PR that’s required when disappointing results are announced to the City. During the interview, he sought to reassure those concerned about the future of M&S. He said “We’ve been going for 125 years. We’re still here, we’re still breathing and we’ll be here tomorrow”. Once again, he’d said what I was thinking. That’s exactly how I would describe Robinsons. We’ll be here tomorrow – even if some of our competitors may not be. In uncertain times like these, that’s not a bad way to describe yourself. Then, another thought occurred to me. He’d said that M&S, arguably the most respected name on the High Street, are 125 years old this year – fully 17 years younger than us! I checked it out on the internet and it’s true! When the economy is buoyant, you wonder if anyone cares about the age and stability of the companies they deal with. In truth they probably don’t – and why should they? As customers, we are told we are the ‘King’, making all the choices in our own interest, concerned largely with price, quality, service and image. As a company who seeks your custom, we must treat you thus or bear the consequences of disappointing you. For many, that is the depth of the relationship and generally, we all accept that status quo. In financially darker times, particularly those with longer memories may perhaps give a little more thought to the credibility of those to whom they choose to give their money. Now it’s perhaps a little churlish to portray a company with a £9bn turnover like M&S as comparative ‘Johnny-come-lately’ types, so I won’t do that. What it does invite you to think, however, is that we’ve both lasted through recessions, depressions, World Wars and everything else that the 20th Century has inflicted on the world. Such heritage doesn’t give us any magical powers and it doesn’t guarantee that we’ll fare any better than anyone else – as we’ve seen with Woolworths recently. What I believe it does give us is the credibility to reassure the customer who is deciding where to buy the item they want. In Mail Order in particular, trust is a huge part of the decision-making process. We appreciate that you’re in effect paying for items that we’re promising to send to you at some point. If you’re fortunate to be young enough not to remember the last recession, please bear this in mind. It’s much easier to keep your promises in the good times. When things are not so good, the companies under the greatest pressure tend to be those who break their promises most. In this and other industries, be careful who you pay to keep their promises this year. I look forward to wishing you a Happy New Year in 2010. Believe me, that’s another promise we will keep…

Fancy an early night? ;-)

If you've received your Sale Catalogue and you've found something you like, I invite you to go to bed early tonight, just like I'll be doing. As you’ll no doubt already know, our Winter Sale starts online tomorrow morning at the less-than-Godly hour of 3am and we all need to be up and fresh in time for it. Why on earth do we put ourselves (and you) through this inconvenience? The simple answer is that we've found over the years that it's the safest - and fairest - time of day for us to start a sale. Here's a little of what we've learned over the years: I’m afraid to say that starting an online Sale in working hours has proved to be a complete 'no-no'. We tried it one Christmas Eve and it instantly killed all our systems. It meant that I had slightly depressed Christmas that year and I’m sure lots of customers were disappointed. Unfortunately, the fact that it was so easy for everyone to access the Sale was precisely the reason it was so difficult for us to handle. We had to find a way of 'frightening off' some of the initial surge in demand. The obvious solution is, I'm afraid, unsociable hours - which is why we've started our Sales overnight for the last few years. In fact, midnight used to be our preferred time but even this could lead to problems. If the site still ran slowly over the first hour or so, customers who had planned to stay up until midnight to spend half an hour shopping online were still up at 2am and starting to complain that they hadn’t been to bed yet. We felt that not only was 3am even more inconvenient (and therefore even safer), it also meant users are more likely to have had some sleep and therefore any delays (perish the thought) should be less troublesome - we hope... There's also an inherent fairness in making things really awkward for everybody. It means that those who inconvenience themselves the most are most entitled to the deals which are least commonly available, so morally, it seems to work well. It's the same 'law of the jungle' that governs other areas where demand hugely exceeds supply, like tickets for Cup Finals or Glastonbury. It sounds like Customer Service heresy to say so, but it's the simple fact that few retailers will admit - even though everybody knows it: If you want something enough, you'll do what it takes to get it. There, I've said it. Please don't think less of me. I'm just trying to be honest with you! All Sales are naturally very busy times and to an extent, we as customers do with in reason accept that fact - don't forget, we're all somebody's customer, so I feel I can say that. When Next (for example) hold their retail Sales (ususally from 5am), there are almost always long queues at every store. The thing about Sales at retail is that it's obvious to all how many people are there - because you can see them all. While each person has made the effort to travel there, I'm sure that if the event was ridiculously over-subscribed, the fact that such a crowd would be obvious to others often serves to make some of them think again and drive straight back home. Retail Sales are therefore self-limiting to some extent. On the web, it's not that straightforward - for anyone. We have a good idea of the number of people who visited the site on the first day of each of our previous sales, so it would be inaccurate to say we don't know what to expect, but that doesn't mean to say our estimates will be right this time. It's also a lot easier to join in as a customer, because you don't even need to leave your bed, so even our best estimates could be way out. Of course, this has a bearing on the amount we invest in our systems to accommodate this expected demand. From the customer's viewpoint the unpredictability will be even more frustrating. Over-subscribed websites work slower (or fall over completely) and items sell out sooner, all things likely to frustrate people and understandably so. At least the company holding the online Sale will know why things are slow - or worse - because they can see the visitor stats. The poor customer may appreciate it's busy but they won't know the just how many people are also online', so there's a chance they'll get even more frustrated. Unlike with retail, this self-limiting factor just isn’t there. I should pause here to point out that I appear to be painting a very negative picture about the process. That's because we try wherever possible to bear in mind a 'busiest day imaginable' scenario - so we can prepare to handle it. I refer you to my earlier blog about store openings The Perils of Success, in which a similar theme is explored: being too busy can be worse than not being busy enough. Yes we've had our moments over the years where our online Sales have sailed close to the wind of disappointment in some quarters and I'm also sure it's impossible to impress all of the people all of the time - although we'll never stop trying to do that. Over the last two years, I feel we have got a lot closer to the kind of infrastructure that allows us to deal with such a vastly inflated demand. This year, I believe we've been able to improve our capability even more, so I'm optimistic (make that cautiously optimistic) that this Sale will be our best ever – for all of us! In recent years, we've been let down firstly by hardware (the boxes of physical kit we have) and then by bandwidth (the 'speed' of our web connection). Consequently, it's required us to add more web servers and a load balancer to ensure that more people can interact with the site at the same time. We've also freed up our systems by removing functions like 'WebChat' and 'Others also bought' for the busiest times. The other big difference this year is that we've been able to increase our bandwidth by a factor of 12. Does this mean we can handle 12 times the demand? In theory, yes but in practice, we'll have to wait and see... Eventually, if our IT team have done all they can do and we're still busier than expected, we will at some point run out of things to sell. In effect, our stock levels will have become the 'weak link' in the system. We buy and make available ever more stock for our Winter Sale each year and we've done that again this year but obviously no seller expects to hold significantly more than they believe they can sell. Again, to the frustrated customer, a problem here may look like we don't know what we're doing - but that's because they can't possibly know how many other people are online – or what they are buying. To give you an idea of our online Sale stock this year, it's more than we currently have at our Ashton and Cannock stores combined. Will that be enough, just right or too much? My answer today, the day before the Sale is that I think it will be about right - although I’m sure that some of the lines will sell out very quickly. I will however know a lot more by this time tomorrow – if I’m still awake!! If you're planning to go online tomorrow at 3am, good luck and email me with your comments either way. Paul. paul.bentham@robinsons-uk.com

Eventing's Wind Of Change

Thirteen years ago, Will Carling made national headlines and became (albeit temporarily) stripped of the captaincy of England’s rugby union team when he famously referred to the board in charge of his sport as “57 old farts”.  Since then, the phrase has stuck in the English language as a shorthand for a staunch, often misguided policy of clinging to amateurism and traditional values.  In Britain we may like our traditions but we’re often hamstrung by having too many of them and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of sport and its many governing bodies. While Carling’s ire was directed towards the RFU in 1995, you could equally have substituted the FA (football), the MCC (cricket), the LTA (tennis), the R&A (golf) or a litany of other organisations for similar head-in-the-sand blinkeredness.  Most of these organisations, worryingly, would often have the word ‘British’ in their title. And what of our equestrian organisations?  The BHS seems to have stagnated at the 60,000 members mark, happy to congratulate itself if it manages to add more than a few hundred extra members each year.  Such has been its torpor, that it even attracted criticism from its own (now former) president, Noel Edmonds.   You may be forgiven for thinking that those who can, participate in their sport and those who can’t, administer it. It’s against this rather depressing backdrop that it’s so refreshing to see not only an exciting new initiative about to hit the horse world, but one that is backed by the organisation that officially represents the sport. Express Eventing claims to bring the spirit of 20Twenty Cricket to the sport of eventing.  The three-phase format is shortened to a few hours, with the world’s best horses and riders all competing in a spectacular stadium environment.  The International Cup has attracted 20 of the sport’s biggest names and the backing of British Eventing.   I’m sure the £100,000 first prize helped to convince a few riders, remembering that the richest ‘regular’ event, Badminton pays out £60,000 to the winner.  Even so, someone had to come up with the money and someone else had to ‘think big’ in order to convince them to do so.  I admire anyone who can turn a big idea into a big success and I really hope that this venture is successful. Inevitably, the venue is Cardiff’s marvellously versatile Millennium Stadium.  It boasts the UK’s only fully covered field and a capacity of 73,000, a figure which will be reduced by the mysterious decision not to make the lower tier seating available.  I’m sure it will be revealed why in good time but even so, upto 50,000 fans could still be accommodated.   In truth, I’d guess that the organisers will be delighted with any 5-figure attendance.  The Rugby League’s ‘Millennium Magic’ weekends there have only yielded gates of around 25,000, so it’s perhaps wise to guard against over-optimism here.  Even so, the very thought of a Premier League-sized crowd cheering on a horse and rider in a world-class stadium on November 30th is a thrilling one. There are so many reasons to wish this project well.  If successful, the aim is to ‘roll out’ the principle across a number of glamorous locations around the world.  Why deny Miami and Las Vegas the concept if Cardiff has already proved it is a success?   Will this provide the sport with the boost it needs?  Will it inject the much-demanded and now possibly clichéd ‘X-Factor’?  It may well have arrived just in time.  In recent years, the sport has had to battle for its life as an Olympic sport, with cost, safety and narrow participation all factors counting against it.  It is a well-documented fact that the adoption of the ‘short format’ (minus the steeplechase and the roads-and-tracks phases) saved it from becoming consigned to Olympic history.  I was fortunate enough to be at a seminar recently in which Princess Haya of Jordan, now the FEI’s president put in very stark terms the challenges facing international equestrian sport.  I hope and I’m sure the Cardiff experiment, with all the potential it offers, will have her and the FEI’s attention. If successful, will it threaten the longer format of the sport?  According to Express Eventing, it’s deliberately timed to take place in the English winter, to avoid a conflict with the ‘regular’ eventing season.  In theory though, it could threaten to overtake the older version if it is popular enough, just as Twenty20 now threatens to out-perform test cricket in some countries.  As a retailer, I’m tempted to say that whatever the public want, they should have and if the public are given a choice and choose to support one version more than the other, so be it.  As a cricket fan however, it does concern me that 200 years of test cricket tradition may ultimately be at risk if the 20-over format maintains its growth.  I'm sure that there are many eventing fans who would be just as concerned if a similar thing happened within their sport. However imporant, this is still a question for the future.  Ture progress is almost always controversial, which is precisely why it is often so tempting for the ‘old farts’ to attempt to dilute it or shy away from it altogether.  At least now, eventing seems to be facing up to the future with its fate a little more firmly in its own hands.   How long before another equestrian sport feels it necessary to follow suit?

Feeling the Crunch?

There's been so much talked about 'The Credit Crunch' this year, it seems almost mandatory that we should all be suffering from it. Some people have even gone as far as pinpointing exactly when it began, as if we could all agree that this was the point in time at which we all began to feel less well-off. In truth, we're all affected in different ways, some of us more so than others. The one conclusion that it's almost impossible to draw is that you're completely unaffected. Whatever shape our finances are in, we're all customers of someone and if the companies you buy from are affected, sooner or later, you'll be affected. But here's the thing that isn't often reported. Being 'affected' does not always mean being adversely affected. Uncertainty may be troubling but change isn't always bad. What do I mean by that? Well - and whisper it quietly - some effects of the credit crunch are actually good news for customers. Like the emergence of a buyer's market in many retail sectors as companies become more motivated to sell because of their rising costs - and at the same time, customers become more price-sensitive. The media focus is almost exclusively on the fact that mortgages and other credit is harder to get and more expensive - not generally a good thing - but the point that's often missed is that more pressure that sellers are under (and many of us are under more pressure), the more keen they are to make a sale, and the more they are prepared to lower their prices. As customers, we can at least save back some of the extra money it's now costing us to fill our tanks. In recent weeks, we've heard a few stories in the industry about some of our competitors getting into difficulties and some of the offers we've seen being made would seem to illustrate that. No retailer can make genuine '70% off' reductions for very long and none would even consider it unless they felt they absolutely had to. As the biggest operator in our market, we're thankful to see that our sales are continuing to grow, even in a difficult year like this. In fact, with the opening of our second Superstore at Cannock in October, it's fair to say that we're very confident about the future. All this means that we're not forced into selling off stock cheaply, just to keep the wolf from the door, but if we do carry on regardless of what others do, we could begin to look quite expensive compared to those sacrificing profit for survival. Obviously, we'd rather not give you that impression, so we begin to find ourselves embroiled in a price war not of our making. As the customer, the choice of where to buy is always yours and we never expect you simply to presume that our selection and our prices are the only option open to you. Of course you will look out for bargains wherever you can find them. We even have to accept that there will be some offers that we won't be able to match. All I can do in those instances is to ask you to bear in mind why the offer is so good. It may not be too good to be true, but it's almost certainly too good to last. We'll do our utmost to offer you the best bargains this year but I promise you that we'll also be here to offer you more bargains next year. Not everyone in our market can promise you that.

Meet Kimble - on the run to Cannock...

I'd like to introduce you to a horse you may already have seen... 'Kimble' is one of our equine models.  In the style of Troy McClure from The Simpsons, You may have seen him modelling such products as our Grackle bridle or the Knot Plait Western bridle.  He got his name from Dr. Richard Kimble, the character played by Harrison Ford in the film The Fugitive, given his tendency to escape every so often! He's also about to become the inspiration for one of the new display horses at the Cannock Superstore. If you've visited our Ashton Superstore, you may have seen that we have our own herd of full-size plastic display horses together with even more full-size heads to display bridles and headcollars. Unfortunately, these equine mannequins are only available in an unrealistic shiny graphite colour so when we bought the horses and heads for the Ashton re-opening in 2003, we had them all spray-painted in a variety of 'proper' horse colours, complete with blazes, stars and socks.  They've proved to be quite popular with our store customers and we've even had enquiries from people willing to buy one. With a new shop to fill with a new selection of plastic horses, we're at that stage again and this time, we're being a little more ambitious.  As you'll have noticed, Kimble is a skewbald and we've decided to re-create him in plastic form. Next week, we'll be taking plastic Kimble and his plastic friends down to their new home at Cannock - in a Requisite trailer of course! Before we loaded him up, we took plastic Kimble to meet the real thing.  Of course, we also took a camera to record the occasion.  As you can see, real Kimble was a little wary, as you'd expect of any horse when faced with a newcomer. We wondered if the resemblance was probably lost on real Kimble - do horses have any idea what their own markings are?  It was much more interesting to see Nigel's (his stablemate's) reaction.  Of course, Nigel would know Kimble's markings and his reaction was much more pronounced.  As you can see, the meeting was just as if three horses had met for the first time - and just how much we were able to recreate Kimble's markings.  If you're ever in the Cannock store, make sure you look for him.  He's one of a kind - sort of...

Cannock Progress Still on Schedule

Last Thursday (14th August), I spent the day at the site of our new Superstore at Cannock.  I hadn't been there for just over two weeks and I couldn't believe the difference in the place! Walls were painted, flooring was down and shelving was up.  Instead of a cavernous building, it's now starting to look like a real shop!  I took some pictures on my mobile phone.  They may not be the best quality, but hopefully, they'll give you an idea of what to expect when we finally open the doors some time in October.  I've also deliberately cropped them to keep a few surprises back :-) There's no stock in there yet, so aside from the curiosity value, it's probably only of interest to enthusiasts of shop fittings - and not many people would admit to that!   As ever, keep checking this blog for further updates (or subscribe to an RSS feed) and you'll find out first what's new at our brand new Superstore!

Summer Days, Drifting Away

It’s been a busy few weeks here at Robinsons and we’re now gearing ourselves up for a busy few months to come - right up to Christmas! Last week, our Design team sent all our catalogue pages to the printers, just before the deadline - which means they’ll be arriving on a doormat near you from about the middle of August. You’ll also find them inserted into the August 21st and 28th issues of Horse & Hound and also the September 11th issue of Your Horse. If you haven’t seen what it looks like yet, here’s a picture of the front cover. With the catalogue gone, this week usually marks the passing of the summer’s biggest project. This year, as you may have heard, we have another project on our hands… We’re very pleased to say that in autumn, we’ll be opening our second superstore – in Cannock, Staffordshire. At 10,000 square feet, it’ll be one of the biggest equestrian stores in the country and it’s only 5 minutes’ drive from the motorway network. Of course, this means that we have quite a lot to do to create a store worthy of the high expectation it will undoubtedly generate. As I type, it is still an empty shell of a building with loads to do before we can even begin to decorate it, let alone fill it with stock. Naturally, we can’t really say yet what the ‘opening date’ will be so we’ve done the next best thing which is to be a bit vague and say “opening autumn 2008”. If you read an earlier blog of mine, The Perils of Success, you’ll also know that we learned some valuable lessons about the hype that can go with a store opening. With this in mind, we decided that we won’t have a particularly grand opening. We’ll just open as quickly as possible and then tell as many people as we can once we’ve opened. All of this extra work in turn means that we have even more work to do to promote the new store. We can’t be arrogant enough to presume that every rider in the country reads our catalogue or visits our website. There will be a lot of people for us to tell all about it and we’ve got to find them. Again, using our experience at the Ashton store in 2003, even years after we actually opened the shop, we found we were asked when we would be re-opening. We certainly can’t take for granted that people will just find out about things like this and we’ll do all we can to raise awareness. To that end, we’ve decided to attend three large shows in the Midlands. I’m pleased to say that we’re now the title sponsors of the Robinsons 2008 Midland Championships, the ‘finals’ of the Midland Association of Riding Clubs, held at Rodbaston College, Staffordshire on 30th and 31st August. In October, we’ll make a welcome return to the Horse of the Year Show at the NEC, Birmingham (8th-12th). While visitors to HOYS come from all over the country, its location inevitably means that Midland riders will be well represented. The same will be true of Your Horse Live at the National Agricultural Centre at Stoneleigh between 7th and 9th November, where you can also find our stand. Based on the reaction this story has already generated within The Robinsons Online Riding Club, our Facebook group, perhaps I can guess your next question: When will we be opening a store in your area? As you can imagine, we're going to be very busy with this new store this year but don’t rule it out at some stage. I think the message that you may take from this is that we're taking seriously the idea of retail expansion. Obviously, it’s far too early to say any more than that at this stage, but if you’re not from the North West or the West Midlands, I hope you're encouraged that we're at least thinking about it now. As the sign says, Watch This Space!

Collaboration's What You Need

It's been another interesting week surfing the web for horse-related items of interest.  You may have heard the term 'Web 2.0' before, a term to describe not just the growing complexity of the technology available online, but the way it has become much more integrated into day-to-day life.  As this happens, we all benefit from the online resources that others have taken the time to create. My thanks go to three people who have all done their bit for their fellow riders (and us) in recent weeks: First, I'd like to nominate Dave Gibson for taking a picture of our Superstore and uploading it to Panoramio, which is then fed out as a layer into the Google Earth satellite photography mapping software.  These embedded 'on-the-ground' images within Google Earth are very useful, because even though the satellite imagery works very well as a sophisticated map, if you're using it to find somewhere you've never been to, it's so helpful to have a picture to use as a guide to help you know what you're looking for. In second place, I'd like to mention Alison Greenhalgh and her friends who started the Facebook group We LOVE Robinsons Country Leisure Superstore! I hope she doesn't mind that I joined the group and if you feel the same way as Alison and her friends, I encourage you to join it too! My favourite example this week is an idea by RachelFerd from the Horse & Hound Forum for her Horse & Hound Online Collaboration, a Google Map which aims to show every type of horse-related resource on a single map.  Both graphical and practical, it has been developed enthusiastically by the fellow forumers on HHO, thanks to her thread on the subject.  You can imagine that once completed, you'd never need to be lost again! It's great to see the idea of collaboration really beginning to become part of our daily lives.  Who knows what ideas we'll be taking advantage of in the near future?