Saddles and the Luxury Market

Well, another year has almost passed and as we approach 2018, our thoughts turn to how we will grow and improve upon our business model in the New Year. Times are changing rapidly. Consumers are becoming more particular and Millennials are raising the bar in the Luxury Market. What has worked in the past does not guarantee a similar outcome anymore. And since we, here at Schleese Saddlery Service, have strived very hard to continue to push the edge of the envelope and lead the industry with innovation in saddle manufacture and design, it should come as no surprise that we are paying close attention to what our customers need and require from us. 

So to gain a clearer understanding of the recent research done on the Luxury Market, I sat down with Muriel Chestnut, a long-time friend and former Schleese apprentice Saddle Maker, to discuss what this means to our company and potentially to our customers. Here’s an overview of what we’ve learned.

Millennials are a new breed of consumer. They make up about 38% of the luxury consumer market with an expected growth rate of about 4-5% up to 2020. This is good news for our industry that relies, more or less, on an individual’s ability to purchase customized saddles for their horses, … also another luxury item. But what’s the motivation for this increase?

There are several factors affecting this growth, but we will only concern ourselves with the factors we may have some influence over. They are primarily related to enhancing the consumer’s perception of how the brand relates to themselves. Traditional luxury goods are less relevant to millennials. They are becoming less impressed by expensive material “things” and more interested in how those things can enhance their “experience” of something. This is a major shift in the perceived value of an item. The focus is swinging from an “extrinsic” value to one that is more “intrinsic”. Personal luxury goods brands are being called upon to deliver more “story-telling” through inspirational conversations and experiences. This presents a challenge for brands to transform the things they sell into experiences for their customers. It also requires companies to align themselves with the needs, expectations and desires of the next generation of customers. To better understand each consumer as an individual and not as a market segment. 

But what stands out in my mind is the ability of our clients to see the long-term advantages of investing in superior quality saddles, today. They are uniquely able to recognize the added value to their own health and of course to the long-term welfare of their horses. This is what sets them apart from previous generations perhaps. I feel education of riders has been a huge influence, since an educated rider is our best customer. They understand the value of the investment, which in many cases is generational. Many millennials are encouraging equestrianism in their children as a holistically healthy activity.

New customized designs responding to customer demands for glamourous detailed options for an extra stylish presentation.
New customized designs responding to customer demands for glamourous detailed options for an extra stylish presentation.

Millennials want to be seen as unique individuals. They aren’t as inclined to aspire to join a group that is defined by status. They seek to stand out from the crowd and define themselves as individuals who share common values. They want to be distinguished by being able to make a personal statement. They also want to be seen as making intelligent informed choices. It seems to be somewhat of a paradox however, since they still seem somewhat inclined to impulsive spending on things that make them temporarily happy, vs. our experiences with the baby boomers who tend towards a long-term commitment when purchasing luxury items. They want things to last. This has always been an important criteria of our design process. We make saddles that stand the test of time. Quality craftsmanship has always been a cornerstone of the Schleese brand, and will always be, but we still have the ability to appeal to both markets – instant gratification with a quality product that holds its value and can be upgraded down the road, as well as filling the need for long-term commitment – should that be the preference!

We are seeing a shift in the type of horse millennials purchase/ride. There is a definite trend towards unique breeds, particularly the Iberian breeds such as the Lusitano from Portugal and the PRE (Pure Spanish Horse) from Spain. These horses bring something to the table that the others don’t … a certain allure and air of fantasy that sets them apart. We have specifically designed our latest models with the shorter backed horses in mind since this is an increasing trend. With more and more top level riders and amateurs looking for their “dream” horse, the market must adapt as well. Horses are a luxury item to begin with … but some are more luxurious than others! 

No matter what your personal taste is in either horses or saddles, here at Schleese Saddlery Service we pride ourselves in exemplary customer service and we are committed to raising the bar even further to ensure that our customers are able to experience their goals of maximizing the benefits of our infinitely adjustable saddles. Creating an intimate partnership with their horses while ensuring the long term benefits of a correctly fitting saddle to both themselves and their treasured, luxurious equines for years to come! 

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