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NEW STUDY OFFERS INSIGHTS INTO HORSE OWNERS
The "Equine Market MegaStudy" was conducted by agribusiness specialists Market Directions, Inc. of Kansas City, MO, and Brakke Consulting, Inc., Dallas, TX. The study contains data on 34 different product types across 17 distinct categories, mentioning in total more than 400 brands.

Much more than a products ranking among horse owners, the MegaStudy features in-depth profiling of the spending habits and related lifestyles of more than 1,000 horse enthusiasts who completed a lengthy questionnaire.

The study examines on an annual basis what products each owner/enthusiast bought, how often they bought them, where they purchased them and how much they spent on them. It also analyzes lifestyle preferences regarding their equine interests as well as what outside factors influenced their purchasing decisions.

THREE SEGMENTS
The data collected from the questionnaire revealed that the majority of horse owners can be grouped into three categories: professionals, intensive enthusiasts or casual enthusiasts. The study differentiates these segments primarily by purchasing patterns, but also distinguishes each group by the level of involvement in horse ownership. Demographics as well as psychographics are also considered.

Although the intensive enthusiasts are the largest group, surpassing an estimated 900,000 nationwide, professional owners spend more money on equine-related merchandise and own more horses per capita. Professionals are characterized as people who are serious about their horses, serious about competition and serious about winning. "Professionals are the biggest spenders and will invest in their horses," the report reveals. They include trainers, facility managers, race horse owners, breeders and groomers and on average earn more than $5,000 per year from equine activities.

The estimated number of professional horse owners is just above 430,000. This group spends $2.7 billion annually on related products, or an average of $6,300 per individual. The intensive enthusiasts collectively spend $1.9 billion annually, or about $2,000 per individual. Last, the nation's 627,000 casual enthusiasts spend just over $1 billion per year, which averages out to be $1,655 per individual.

Non-professionals account for 78% of all horse owners, according to projections in the report. "While not big spenders," the report states, "the two groups of non-professional horse owners cannot be ignored."

BRAND LOYALTIES
Among the enthusiasts, brand loyalty is likely stronger than among the professionals. Strong brands simplify the field of choices, and these owners often gravitate toward the strongest names. Buying decisions are emotional for those so avidly devoted to their pastime, so brand loyalty becomes personal.

The professionals, as a group, aren't so easily influenced. Yet "they are open to new products and not averse to changing brands," the report states, "if a better product or deal is offered." Nevertheless, it points out that brands must have a clear and distinctive advantage to attract attention and retain interest from this group. A strong brand may not have as much influence with this group.

Certain Web sites, product catalogs and equine-related publications carry heavy influence in terms of influencing brand loyalty among all three groups. The most often-read magazines are Horse & Rider, Equus and Horse Illustrated. Equine.com and equisearch.com are favorite general sites on the Internet while popular online catalogs include statelinetack.com, valleyvet.com and ddoversaddlery.com.

Psychographics also play a role in each segmented group. The use of psychographics is fundamental in producing quality market research. Decision makers need to understand not only who buys (or will buy) their company's products, but also why.

THE VALUE OF PSYCHOGRAPHICS
The MegaStudy questionnaire asked respondents 23 questions to assess their prevailing feelings and attitudes with respect to horses and horse ownership. The data was grouped into five attributes: intimate emphasis, social emphasis, commercial/competitive emphasis, familial and finally "detached" emphasis.

Those with an intimate emphasis regarding horse ownership project a personal and emotional relationship toward the horse.

For some individuals, horse ownership and care of their horse plays an important role in their social status, even a central role. These persons favor and depend on the respect and camaraderie of other horse owners. Many are intimately involved with their horses and share their enthusiasm with others of like-mind.

Those with familial interests at the base of their equine involvement are also likely to project close, emotional relationships with their horses. The families in this category have owned horses for several generations and predominantly live in rural areas. No doubt owning horses is a factor that binds some rural families together in friendship.

In sharp contrast to those with emotional attachments to their horses are the individuals who use equine circles exclusively for social purposes. These people earn more than $200,000 a year, and their main emphasis is not on having or building an intimate connection with the animal.

Those with a commercial/competitive emphasis look upon their involvement with horses in terms of winning and financial gain, even risk taking.

The 216-page research report is now available for $12,500 from either Brakke Consulting or Market Directions. For more information, interested parties should contact jvolk@brakkeconsulting.com or susan@marketdirections.com.

Also note, see related graph in the May issue of AgriMarketing, page 58.


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