2020 like for many others has turned out to be a wipeout of a year… With the restrictions of movement, mass gatherings and local lockdowns pretty much all things equestrian had been cancelled thus far.
With so many, equestrian events cancelled the impact has been felt on equestrian businesses like ours! Weather and events play such an important factor into our business model and whilst many people do keep horses bathed/groomed throughout the year, the bulk of our sales comes when events are running as this tends to be the time horse owners ‘focus’ on turnout.
State of play?
The start of 2020 was bad, the wet weather and flooded grounds resulted in lots of Cross Country/Eventing events being cancelled and so we felt the impact of these shows not running! Since we can not control the weather our focus for sales/marketing forecast was to look to the month of March as a delayed start of the year.
March arrives and ‘bang’ Covid 19 is here, something no-one could have factored into any forecast plans… So March and April resulted in a massive impact to the business just like it for many others, we tried to stay agile as much as we could and focused on the Equestrian Handwash range and this helped us with sales coming in from non-equestrians!
May through to July we have been trading ok and even though we have seen a downturn in our sales compared to previous years, the warm weather has helped us with a couple of spikes in weekly sales. Speaking to other business owners we are in a favourable position so, i’m happy with that but of course, the worry is always on the mind of what tomorrow brings… When you look back at YTD sales and forecasts the spikes of sales help on a short term view and seem positive but long term we are just sitting around an ‘ok’ level and so the focus at the moment is not on growth and more on survival just like for so many other businesses around the world!
August has been our first month of a real downturn in sales and things have been very quiet! In the past August has been a good month for us but that was in the past and lots of things have changed since 2019…
Whilst I can not control what happens to the wider economy or when shows will be back to full capacity, it is positive to see some shows running with restrictions in place, hopefully with these shows being able to run all ‘ok’ we can start to see more events running but the reality is 2020 is going to be a wipeout year and so the focus will have to be a wait and see what the winter months bring before deciding what to do next!
Sadly as new start-up business we have not qualified for any government help as we had no past trading as a Ltd business and only that as a sole trader and so we have been unable to meet the minimum requirements for grants etc.. With the unknown future i’m staying away from the ‘bounce back loans’ as personally i can’t see any drastic improvements in the next 12 months and whilst the appeal of interest free loan for 12 months seems good, i’m not sure thats the right thing to do with building up debit and until we can see some kind of stable trade month to month i don’t want any more bills onto of what i have already and then worrying not only about supporting business as usual costs then then a whole load of loan repayments as well…
So what have I been doing?
Well, this month I have been taking care of ‘back office’ work and trying to use this quite period as best as I can and try to use this months downturn as an advantage…
I decided to update the Horse Cleaning website, something that has been on the cards since we had our rebrand in 2019. Our past website had received lots of positive feedback and worked very well with the growth but of course, there are always things to improve upon!
Lots of changes to the content pages with improving the layouts for mobile users so that the website is easier to use on small screens etc.. I have also been working on setting up the website for some new product ranges as well as our new ‘subscribe and save’ subscription service.
The hosting servers have been changed from the ground up and we now utilise a new server architecture basked on ‘containers’, this new approach is pretty cutting edge in terms of traditional eCommerce hosting and i’m still learning on optimisation etc.. but so far we have seen 40% increase of performance!
This will continue to improve with the new website design as we make use of more functionality this new hosting provides with the new load balancers, servers etc.. The main change though is the ability to enable us to ‘scale’ with the growth. The old hosting plans our monthly costs were reaching crazy amounts, due to the fact the only way to support the business growth were to add more server resources…
With the new ‘container’ infrastructure we just add server resources on the ‘fly’, so if we experience a spike of traffic we can increase server resources right away and automatically, then when the traffic resides we can remove the additional server’s resources that we no longer require. This ability to scale up and down on demand is going to be so helpful as we try and grow the business even further but doing in an economical way, which is suitable for the current trading times we find ourselves in with covid 19 in play!
As well as a number of other changes around website pages, servers etc.. I am also trying to focus on creating more content for our customers with this new blog and our new YouTube channel. It will take some time due to the covid 19 restrictions but hopefully, over time we will be able to produce some amazing content for you all!