Most of the world’s equestrian gear is now made in China, was the number of booths at the recent Equestrian China expo in Beijing. The attendance was noticeably down on last year that may be because most of the makers of brushes, breeches, boots and whips are located in the industrial belt around Shanghai, which hosted last year’s show.
Two of the stalls this year: Yang Guo Feng, owner of Changzhou Yuyang Saddlery (the name is al little misleading given he only makes brushes) an export-focused firm in southeasterly Jiangsu province. Business is booming, reported Yang.
Professionalism has gotten him the orders: Guo honed his managerial skills at a state-owned brush maker until, seeing a niche in the equestrian business, he set up his own firm, Changzhou Saddlery. “I saw some European equestrian goods companies coming to our firm looking for a production contract and thought that was an opening for me.” He’s done well doing original enterprise manufacturing (OEM) – making goods for well known brands under their logos. And, increasingly, he’s making his own brand products – brushes, sponges and sweat scrapers.
Changzhou brushes are much cheaper than the famous brands, 10-20% what European brands charge. The firm does so by skinning its margins, down to 20%. “We want large volume in sales, rather than the huge margins better known brands seek,” says Yang.
He wants 50% of the European market for equestrian brushes and thinks he’ll get it “already 80% of EU brush retailers come to me.” Guo is more ambitious: there’s 5 staff working full time on a RMB1 million per year R&D budget, coming up with new brush fibres and designs.