How to Start a Tack Shop Business
If you are interested in starting a tack shop business, you should have a strong background in an area of the equine industry. Tack shops provide quality saddles and supplies to horse owners, trainers, and breeders. Those with previous retail experience will find it to be particularly beneficial, especially if this work experience was gained in an equine or animal-related store environment.
The customers that visit your store will value your expert opinion regarding the tack and equipment that you sell. Since you will be seen as the expert, it is important that you are familiar with the various disciplines of equestrian competition and the specific items utilized in these pursuits. It is best to work for an established store—even if only briefly—before venturing out on your own. There is no substitute for hands-on experience.
Business Considerations for a Tack Shop
Before opening your tack shop, you must take into account the variety of business and legal considerations that tie into starting any new business. Do a feasibility study to see if there is a need for a tack supply shop in the area where you wish to operate.
Schedule a consultation with your accountant regarding the advantages and disadvantages of forming your business as a sole proprietorship, Limited Liability Company (LLC), corporation, or another type of entity. The accountant will also help you understand how to pay self-employment taxes like worker's compensation and federal estimated taxes.
You should also contact your state or local government to look into any requirements, such as permits or licenses, which could be necessary for your business to operate in its intended location. Also, look into setting up your store to charge and remit state sales taxes.
Another important item on your start-up planning checklist should be securing an insurance policy. Shop around between independent agents and agents who work directly with an insurance provider to get your best price.
Most tack shops have a brick and mortar retail store location. Horse owners like to purchase their tack and supplies in person if a shop is nearby. Many riders prefer to sit in various saddles to find the one that is the most comfortable for their use before making an investment in this expensive piece of tack.
A retail location carries with it the added expense of a lease. Or, perhaps you have your own property which would be suitable for construction of a new building or renovation of an existing structure.
Some brick-and-mortar tack shops maintain a website to allow out of town customers to place orders. There are also tack shops that operate exclusively through websites and do not have physical retail locations.
Mobile tack shops have been growing in popularity. A mobile tack shop is operated out of a large trailer which can be towed to horse shows and other equine events. Some tack shop operators use these mobile units to travel the show or race circuits to supply competitors who are on the road.
Most shops carry a variety of tack items which can include saddles, bridles, blankets, saddle pads, halters, lead shanks, martingales, breastplates, and girths. Some shops also offer engraving services to customize brass nameplates used on halters, saddles, and belts.
Tack shops also routinely carry equine supplies and equipment such as brushes, leg wraps, buckets, tools, riding apparel like boots or helmets. Other inventory may include tack trunks, feed, liniments, supplements, and treats. They may also stock gift items such as key chains, model horses, stuffed animals, and other equine gifts. Some shops also choose to sell quality used tack or apparel on a consignment basis.
Advertising & Marketing Your Tack Shop
You may consider allowing customers to sign up for a weekly or monthly newsletter that will inform them of upcoming sales and specials.
Another way to gain exposure is through sponsorships of horse shows, races, or other equine events. Sponsors are frequently granted the privilege of selling their merchandise on-site, so this can be a great way to gain access to potential customers. Making donations to charity auctions can also draw positive attention to your business while helping a good cause.
Tack shops may also advertise by sending out mailings, visiting equestrian centers, placing custom magnets on company vehicles, and creating hats or clothing featuring the business logo.
Tack shops can also benefit from referral business directed their way by equine veterinarians, farriers, barn managers, and trainers. Positive word of mouth references from happy customers can also be a great advertisement for a tack shop.