Whats in your perfect tack shop?

Hey everyone!
So I’m lucky enough that my husband and I found a small horse property that we are moving into at the end of the month. In addition to a horse barn there is an old 5,000 sqft dairy barn. Its in great structural condition and we’d like to turn it into a tack shop. We’re still in the planning phase (working on getting a special use permit to have a commercial store on a residential property, getting financing, etc). I’d love some suggestions as to what would and would not be in your perfect tack shop. We’re definitely doing consignment. Thought about carrying feed but there is a big grain store 2 miles away so we wouldn’t profit enough. What about carrying a small selection of dog/cat supplies as well? Saves a separate trip to the pet store. What about services? Any and all comments and considerations are welcome! Thanks!

PS - We live in the hudson valley a very big horse area and the only tack shop left is closing its doors soon so there wouldn’t be competition except a new small shop that opened up in Millbrook.

Lucky you! Would love to own a tackstore.

  1. Good customer service- a must if you want repeats. Good help, that is also knowledgeable.
  2. Well designed clothes over all price points and all sizes. If I were you I’d look into carrying equine couture/ Tailored Sportsman/ Grand Prix/ RJ Classic lines plus others. All of them are well developed brands with good reputations.
  3. A good tack selection. All price points. Go for reputable.
  4. Boots. This will be hard, but try to have at least 4 different brands so people can compare.
  5. Be open to ordering from retailers for specific needs even if you don’t carry said item. It will get you lots of respect.
  6. Always have general horsey items in stock. Brushes/ Shampoos/ Halters/ Lead Ropes/Buckets/ Supplements/ Polos/ Saddle Pads.

Hope this helps. :slight_smile:

Other useful services include laundry and repair service for blankets, a tack repair service, nameplate engraving and embroidery service on-site.

Your building sounds large enough that you could rent out an area to a tack repair person who could run that as a separate business or any of the other things I mentioned.

Friend of mine who owns a tack shop won’t serve food because of rats/garbage. Good reason not to carry feed at your shop, besides the nearby feed store.

My perfect tack shop would carry

Saddles for all local disciplines, from dressage through saddle seat to western
Pads and blankets for same
Bridles for all local disciplines
Bits for same (except not any crazy western/trail/barrel bits) I would sell nothing cruel, and if shoppers wanted it I would try to educate them in a nice way and offer something better.
Halters and leads
Accessories: stirrups and leathers, girths, snaps, keepers, flash straps, latigos, etc.
Stable blankets and sheets, coolers, etc.
Boots, wraps, bandages
Whips, crops, bats
Horsey treats
Clothing for riders – shirts, breeches, tights, jodhpurs, boots for all local disciplines
Riding underwear (none of the local tack shops I have known carry this, why, I don’t know!)
Helmets, hats
Horse-themed gifts, from T-shirts to shower curtains
Books and DVDs

Basically as much as your shop can hold for local disciplines.

A bulletin board (monitored by someone!) of local shows, clinics, lessons, trainers, barns, etc.

Consignment items: whatever you have room for!

I also like SCI’s idea of the tack repair business!

More important than “things” is knowing your customer base. What is the average rider/parent willing to spend on breeches/jackets/boots? Around here, parents don’t want to pay a lot for their growing kids (we do not play in the big sandbox… there’s a local assn., but you have to travel to show rated). And so I have to carry a lot of price options to appease the new pony mom and the serious riders who DO travel.

Some vendors are really easy to deal with, and super nice. Others… not so much.

English Riding Supply has been a BIG part of my store. They do Ovation (have to have their Zocks!), Pessoa, Mountain Horse, romfh, Veredus, Centaur, Equi-Star (which has great stuff for lower prices), and some other small brands.

If you want to cater to kids and have a fun shop, try to get with Intrepid International. I don’t like much of their leatherwork, but I really like their fun stuff… Breyer, colouring books, decals, key chains, mugs, etc. Plus, they do Thinline.

Tall boots are hard. Very hard. There are so many size combinations, and to have them all in stock, you have to have a lot of disposable money. They can sit on the shelves (again, depends on your area). I’ve done Ariat, Mountain Horse, Tredstep, Grand Prix, and Ovation. Some have done better than others.

I’ve done blanket repair and saddle pad washing… I send stuff off to an engraver, and do not do on-site embroidery (very expensive). The other tack shop (45min away) does on-site engraving, but they do not turn out as nice as the stuff I order in. I guess it’s instant gratification vs. better quality. I do consignment, which is a little hit-and-miss, but doing better as the area develops.

I wish I could carry more high-end brands, but the expensive stuff just doesn’t sell here. If I could, I would have more Pikeur, and get Tailored Sportsman and Horseware Ireland (I might try to get them at market). I’d also like to get Neue Schule, because I love their bits. But what I love isn’t necessarily what sells.

Sometimes you just have to take the plunge and “play” with certain brands. See what sells, and what sits. It sounds like you’re in a better area than I am, so hopefully you will have more success.

I try to have brands the other tack shop doesn’t have… they were a real thorn in the side of the former owner, and have actually tried (on multiple occasions) to persuade vendors to not work with her. It’s actually worked, in some cases.

The yummy leather and all things horse smell that I remember from my childhood tack shop, The Saddler in Connecticut. It was the most magical place in the world!

Have things that people can’t wait for in the mail - poultice, linament, wraps, UlcerGuard, fly spray, etc - and lure them in that way. It is tough to compete with the internet for a lot of things but when someone needs something, they need it now!

Just a note - a biggie for me in terms of design would be a separate driveway for the tack shop. A local one to us only has one driveway and it’s really weird driving past the owner’s home and looking at his clothes on the clothesline on his back porch. Seeing his wife’s… er, knickers, freaks me out a little bit.

Just makes the business appear more professional/legitimate to several potential customers.

Good horse trailer parking with easy turn around for your customers towing when they need to get get something.

Have things that people can’t wait for in the mail - poultice, linament, wraps, UlcerGuard, fly spray, etc - and lure them in that way. It is tough to compete with the internet for a lot of things but when someone needs something, they need it now![/QUOTE]

BELL BOOTS. S-M-L-XL. In pull on and velcro.

Unfortunately, I don’t stop in at one of the local tack shops as much anymore because every time I went in for something like bell boots, fly spray, and dewormer, they were out of stock. Bell boots were the biggest culprit.

The small retail stores survive against the Smartpaks and the Dovers and the Greenhawks by not only stocking the regular basic things that we all find broken or run out of and need in a hurry, but also stocking themselves with expertise. Make sure your staff can fit a helmet, a hunt coat, field boots.

Opening up a tack store is extremely expensive. I’d suggest going consignment first, building up a reputation, and then contacting the big vendors like Toklat and ERS.

I’ve worked at a successful tack shop, and it didn’t make much money. It was very successful.

Grain, dog food, cat food will open your clientele but be aware that mark up for grain/food is very slim - usually only .50c-2$ more… For the amount of floor space and heavy lifting, sometimes it isn’t worth it.

Providing drop off services for people who clean blankets, sharpen razors, fix tack, etc, will make people more likely to stop in/swing by.

Consignment – consignment was one of the most sought after things we had. We made more money day-in/out off of our consignment than we did off of our high-end brand new bridles we sold (Vespucci, Passier, Red Barn).

Having someone who is familiar with helmets, coats, and boots definitely helps - we had an employee for almost every discipline. Stock for most disciplines, but don’t be extravagant – useful/functional usually trumps the blingy/outlandish.

Also, think of the ‘last minute’ oh-sh%#$-we-forgot-this-the-day-before-a-show purchasers… This is… extra strap goods, extra brushes, bell boots, boots, etc.

Good luck!

Basics, basics, basics, basics. Some local businesses have lost a lot of my business over the years because I can’t run in and get a bottle of fly spray, a roll of vet wrap, no frills bell boots, or inexpensive, every day leather halters. Be sure those things STAY IN STOCK. I think there is no excuse to run out of things that every horse owner uses on a regular, if not daily basis.

Beyond that, knowing your market is huge. Be sure to carry at the very least the basics for all the disciplines that are popular in your area (it was always frustrating going into one shop looking for a generic, common eventing item and only finding high end hunter and dressage stuff because that’s what the owners did). If you have a large lesson barn population and/or a lot of local shows, be sure to stock inexpensive helmets, boots, gloves, and britches and jods for lesson kids, and inexpensive options for showing (so, not just $400 show coats and Tailored Sportsmans). And, like Renn says, make sure your staff is knowledgeable and can fit the things you stock!

One thing I’ve always thought of doing if I had a tack shop is offering a package deal for a “beginner’s package” (inexpensive boots, helmet, and jods/britches), and a “first show package” (inexpensive jacket, shirt, and jods/britches). Maybe even a “my first horse/pony package” (halter, lead, brushes).

And, just a little inside info, consignment takes a lot of work. I definitely know a few good retail shops that have a nice consignment section, as well, but it takes a lot of work to do it well. It can take up a lot of space, as well (though it sounds like space might not be an issue), so you have to be picky!

its a great way to lose all your money…

Oh I would love to own a tack shop and do all of the buying (: I’m a buyer for a stationery and gift store and it’s so much fun! It takes some experimentation, and you know your clientele better than we do, but everyone has some good suggestions so far! I really wish our local tack shops did carry more gift items. Books are great (if you have kids in the area, maybe the thoroughbred series and chestnuts hill series, etc). Also, Rebecca Ray has some fun gift items–gorgeous belts, totes, handbags, etc. Our store also has a few Hermes pieces (bracelets and belts) that are gorgeous! But I agree with the multi discipline thing as well (at least English disciplines). I ride dressage and they never have anything I need in stock (full seats, whips, bridles, etc), though they are nice enough to order stuff for me(: also, could you get someone yo do monogramming on pads and polos and stuff?

My mother had a tack store, packed with goods and knowledge. Most people came in tried stuff on, then ordered from Dover…

If I’m making a big purchase (saddle, tall boots, etc) I’m more likely to go to a bigger and/or online store. I don’t expect a small tack shop to carry a ton of options in the expensive items. Instead, I go to my local tack shop for…

  • tack soap/shoe polish/etc. Please carry the BASICS. Some people like fancy spray saddle soap and the pre-polished boot sponges but I just want glycerin and Kiwi polish!
  • Hair nets/gloves/crops
  • Girths/wraps/bits/saddle pads/bell boots
  • Tack that doesn’t need to be “fancy” ie a martingale, flash strap.
  • blanket repair and nameplates
  • Injury care items and “I leave for a show tomorrow and I ran out of ____” items. I boarded at a barn five minutes away from a small tack shop and I was in there buying poultice pads, vet wrap, betadine, epsom salts, fly spray, show sheen and quic silver more than anything.

Friendly staff is really important for a small tack shop. I keep going to my local tack shop because I know the staff and I want to support them (and because I have almost $100 worth of consignment credit ;))

ETA: The ability to order in anything is great. Like I said, I know all of the staff at the local tack shop and it’s awkward to walk out without buying anything. I’m much more likely to look there first for something they might not have because I know they can order it.

Well I went to a smaller tackshop twice recently and it was pretty amazing they did not have one of the 3 basic things I wanted to buy… Maybe they were too basic…

  1. replacement rubberstraps for the stirrup irons of my son
  2. mane comb
  3. rubber rings for the bit

so I had to order it online…

My mother had a tack store, packed with goods and knowledge. Most people came in tried stuff on, then ordered from Dover…[/QUOTE]

Same here - most of our customers would come in and try our saddles, then order from Dover. :lol:

It’s definitely a big financial venture. If I ever opened a tack store, I’d really be consignment only. People don’t go to Dover or Smartpak for consignment…

Haha thats funny. Fortunately the barn is atthe very base of the driveway with a separate parking lot in front. I agree I would find it weird to have strangers driving right by my house. The previous owners set the property up so nicely

Just a note - a biggie for me in terms of design would be a separate driveway for the tack shop. A local one to us only has one driveway and it’s really weird driving past the owner’s home and looking at his clothes on the clothesline on his back porch. Seeing his wife’s… er, knickers, freaks me out a little bit.

Just makes the business appear more professional/legitimate to several potential customers.[/QUOTE]

Thanks for everyones advice. I worked at the big tack shop in the area for almost a year and my biggest issue was that the owner never had stock of basic items. It was always awkward trying to explain to a customer that we didn’t have fly spray. It is a second generation tack shop so people in the area are used to coming in rather than ordering online. We have some VERY wealthy people so having expensive items is necessary. Plus they don’t care about the price so they don’t hunt around for cheaper prices online. There are also plenty of beginners so I’ll be carrying the cheaper products as well. I love the idea of having beginner show packages. I had thought of that and I think it will be a huge hit. To give you some perspective the other tack shop was making $1 million in revenue a year in its hay day. I’m definitely in the area where it can be very profitable as long as I stock the correct things. They have point of sale programs now that track product sales so I can see whats selling and whats not and adjust my inventory appropriately. The area is pretty big in all english disciplines so I’ll be sure to stock as much as everything as I can. I might have to wait on some of the services until I can afford it. Like an industrial washing machine. But I love the idea of renting out a portion to someone who does tack repair. Thats a huge service at the other tack shop but I don’t know how to do it myself. Thanks for all the advice!