Company’s delight as demand for high-end horse homes picks up pace after lockdown lull
PUBLISHED: 11:21 18 June 2020 | UPDATED: 11:58 24 June 2020
A firm which makes equestrian equipment is feeling buoyant as sales and leads pick up in the wake of the coronavirus lockdown.
The new north Suffolk owners of Loddon Equestrian – which specialises in high quality stabling – were given a baptism of fire after the crisis hit just five months after they bought the company for an undisclosed sum.
But business has picked up rapidly after a lull in March and April and – as long as the UK isn’t hit by a second lockdown – the firm is on track to make big strides this year.
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Optimism among the equestrian community appears to be rapidly improving after a post-lockdown slump – with orders picking up and strong prospects for big projects in the pipeline, the company said.
The livery sector – highly dependent on riding lessons to keep it viable – was particularly badly hit after lessons were brought to an abrupt halt when lockdown was announced, slashing business incomes. Polo and equestrian events appeared more resilient, said managing director Michael Shephard. But in recent weeks the company has detected renewed enthusiasm for extending and building stabling, which has buoyed its prospects for this year.
“I feel really buoyant, but it’s on the assumption that we are not going to have another lockdown – that would be completely disastrous,” said Mr Shephard.
The highly-regarded firm – which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year – was snapped up by horse-lovers and friends Michael Shephard, Richard Turvill and Dominic Parker in October 2019.
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It was their dream business, and they had ambitions to grow the £700k turnover business, which is based in Raveningham, near Beccles, and also has a manufacturing base on the Suffolk side of the border. When the crisis hit, their immediate hopes were dashed as they had to put two of their 10 workers in lockdown as orders dipped.
But after a difficult few weeks, they are already up to manufacturing capacity, and bringing their furloughed workers back on board after the business starts to hit its stride again.
Most of the interest is from the UK - but the stables the company makes have a strong and growing following abroad - including in the US, south-east Asia, the Middle East and China.
“The plan has been to bring it back to the glory days,” said Mr Shephard. “We recognised there are developing markets across the world that we could tap into.”
Potential customers were using their time in isolation to plan and design “exciting” new stabling projects.
“When they realise we are still fabricating at nearly full capacity they are keen to place their orders now for delivery as swiftly as possible when restrictions are lifted,” he said.
Loddon Equestrian is the only stabling manufacturer in the world with a royal warrant from Queen Elizabeth II.
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