Death of Brick and Mortar

Recently my area got it’s first Dover Saddlery. I personally have rarely shopped at Dover online because their shipping fees are ridiculous. Also, 99% of the time you can find what you need cheaper from somewhere else with free shipping. SmartPak is slightly better because they offer free shipping with a certain $ threshold but they are also on my persona non grata list at the moment.

Regardless I was like a little kid about the toy store when I heard that we were getting our own store. Instant gratification – yes please! Unfortunately the real life experience didn’t live up to my expectations. I am not sure if it is just that Riding Warehouse and other retailers have ruined me for sub par customer service. _rw-engThey made me expect great deals or what but I don’t foresee myself frequenting our local store after we attend the grand opening.

I think most horse girls can relate to getting excited when a tack catalog finds it’s way to us in the mail. It is still satisfying to get one in the store. What is not satisfying is having to check the catalog to see sales prices of items… So you are saying I need to find the item in the store and then also find it in the catalog just to know what the current sale price is? Why don’t I just buy it online at that point…Or when you are leaving and the store associate tries to take the catalog back from you. No ma’am, you cannot.

What is your alls thoughts on brick and mortar stores?  I try to support local business and will shop at our locally owned tack shop but I am only willing to pay a certain amount more for that convenience before it becomes not worth it for me.

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  1. I like to support local businesses, but I typically shop on a pretty small budget, so finding things for the lowest price is a big deal to me. For example, I bought a Samshield Helmet at a semi local retailer. While the price was the same, sales tax added almost $30. If I wouldn’t have been concerned with instant gratification, I would have just ordered it online, saved $30 and had it in a few days.

  2. I like my local Dover store. The hours are great, the staff is helpful, they’re close to work (15 minutes so I can run over at lunch) and I’ve been shopping at the retail store since… 2003ish? Sometimes I want to just go and browse and I can’t tell you the number of people who ask if I need help! They’re happy to let me browse if I want to browse or leave items for me at the counter while I shop, but it’s nice to be asked if I need help.

    As for the other local, small business tack shops (Rick’s Heritage, Bit of Britain, Equine Exchange), they’re fine, but I some of them I can never get help. Rick’s is great for saddles, but nothing else assistance wise which is why I have a gift certificate sitting around for a year that I haven’t bothered spending. It’s just not worth the hassle. Bit of Britain is fine, but half of the time I can’t get help and when I can, I’m presented with “this is your only option, take it or leave it” and I don’t like that. They also have better sales on their website then in stores and it makes no sense to pay for shipping when I can drive 5 minutes to the store… But, depending on who I talk to, the sales they have sometimes are web only…

    So, lately I find myself buying from Dover. If they don’t have it in the store, they order it and ship it to the store and I don’t pay shipping. If it’s something that I want my husband to buy for me, they write down all the information so that he knows what to ask for. I’ve always been able to return things (and actually get refunds vs store credit), plus I like their blankets. Add in convenience… As customer service elsewhere has slipped, I find myself back at Dover more (unfortunately, I’ve had issues with Smartpak lately including a brand new item that arrived with a hole in the seam that they replaced, but it took several phone calls and way too long).

    1. That’s great that you have had such a positive experience. When I factor in the up charge on most items I just can’t justify it though most of the time.

      I also have a different desired experience I think. I don’t want anyone to pester me. I want to look around in peace and will let someone know if I have a question about where something is or if they have x size. Maybe I will have a better experience tomorrow at the grand opening but I am not holding my breath.

      1. No that makes perfect sense. But, nothing’s worse than when you need to try on boots and all the stock is in the back and there is NO ONE TO HELP YOU. At least at Dover people find me to offer assistance (and then leave me alone). Of course, it’s nice when I’m trying things on, I can stay in the dressing room and then bring me additional sizes, styles, etc. so that I don’t have to keep getting changed and wondering back out. I only shop at this specific Dover store and they’ve been around forever so that may be part of it.

  3. We had a Dover open up near where I live but I’ve never been. I buy everything online because it tends to be cheaper, and if I can’t find it online, there is a small tack store near me that stocks everything and gives great discount prices….so no need to hit up a chain like Dover.

    I’m severely spoiled by RW. Seriously. I find it hard to shop anywhere else.

  4. It’s no secret that I have always been VERY anti-Dover…to the point where I’d rather make it myself than give them a dime of money. Their customer service is sub-par at best (IMO), and their shipping prices, as well as some of their in-store prices and “sales, are complete garbage. You already know that I’m a SmartPak fan because of their competitive prices and super-fast shipping (for me anyway), and I’ve never had anything less than amazing customer service from them, so I will always check SP first. You also know that I’m not a big RW fan, but given the choice, I’d rather give RW my money over Dover any day. I do see the appeal of brick and mortar stores to be able to touch different products in person, but I don’t absolutely need to get my hands on something before I purchase it, especially since the return policies for most online retailers are fantastic.

    1. Yep – if our Dover has huge sales down the road I might be intrigued but I can get a salt block like 3lbs heavier for the same price at TSC and without leaving my house from RW sooo sorry Dover you lose. I am hopeful maybe our local store will take a hint and offer more competitive pricing because they will have some competition now though.

      SmartPak has been pushing me farther and farther away this year. I regularly have to wait over a week for their stuff to get to me and the pricing isn’t competitive when I can normally get my hands on regular needs cheaper/faster. What pushed me over the edge and why I cancelled my Smartpaks was when I sold Houston and convinced his new owners to continue is $50+ a month supplements they thanked me and actually gave me store credit – win. After that conversation and my manually cancelling his supplements because I don’t own him they still billed me even though I cancelled his Smartpak. I called and they had all these reasons for what happened and I said fine put Annie’s on hold to make up for the fact that I now have 2 months of supplements for one horse… They didn’t. Thankfully my card declined the charge due to expiring and when they called me and I cancelled. Now I am determined to find what I need elsewhere. I might still purchase things on occasion but if I have the option of anywhere besides them I take it given this experience and others I had over the past 12mo.

      Love the wide world of internet shopping!

      1. Your experience with trying to cancel Houston’s SmartPaks sounds like a rare occurrence, because I’ve never had anything but amazing customer service from SP…even when I was a pain in the ass and had to order (and return) 4 different pairs of tall boots last year, or when I wanted to shrink the font size on a halter nameplate. Everyone I spoke with at SP was super helpful and made things incredibly easy, so I will forever be a SP customer. I know you and Amanda and a bunch of other bloggers love RW, but my issues with them are less customer service-related, and are more logistic. Waiting 7+ days to receive an order makes me absolutely nuts, having to spend at least $50 to get free shipping is annoying (I get free shipping on everything at SP, no minimum), and the lack of product brands and product selection at RW is sub-par at best, at least IMO. My customer service experiences with RW have been fine, but I just can’t ever seem to find what I really want. I feel that an internet retailer should have everything they sell on their website, and if it’s not there, they don’t carry it. I don’t feel comfortable calling a company and asking to buy something that’s not listed on their site as a special order, but that’s just me. I’ve also not been blown away by anything I’ve purchased from RW: are the products decent? Sure. But does it make me want to choose them over SP? No. And, even though the prices on RW can sometimes be cheaper than SP, at the end of the day, I have to spend at least $50 to get free shipping, PLUS wait at least a week to get whatever I ordered. I’d rather shop SP and know that I’ll have it in my hands in less than half the time, with free shipping, and get exactly what I want.

  5. Online all the way…better selection, easier to get a good deal, especially if you can be patient and wait on a coupon. I’d go to our local store for dire need stuff they were so nice & well stocked, like can’t wait for shipping time issues but otherwise it was SmartPak. Never had an issue with them. Dover opened about 45 min from my old house but my friends that went seemed to all come back with full price breeches, stiff Havana colored leather halters and colored buckets…nothing special imo. I want to be able to make sure I’m getting the best deal.

  6. Dover, unfortunately, it stuck in a 90’s business model. Their prices are even worse than SmartPak, as is their shipping. I like going into the store sometimes to see what they’ve got, or if I need something immediately (vet wrap and fly spray are the most common purchases), and yes it’s nice to be able to touch things and try them on. But the store here never really has anything I haven’t already seen a million times, so it’s only fun once. The Charlotte’s by my house is the one that I prefer to give my money to, if possible. Better than Dover in so many regards. There’s just not much about Dover that appeals to me really, from pricing to selection… they’re not my #1 choice for anything. I do really like having a brick and mortar horse store nearby my house though. Granted, I wouldn’t be sad if Dover went out of business and left Charlotte’s as the only game in town. 😉

    1. The Charlotte’s gets my business every time–better tack selection, better attire selection, and more than once they’ve offered me coffee. It’s so easy to offer good service like that, and think of the return business it generates.

    2. Yeah. I see myself going there for quick purchases as it is a little easier to get to than our local store but not planning to make special trips there when I can get what I need for better prices online.

  7. This in-store experience is kind of shocking to me. My local Dover is not like this at all–they typically have the sale prices posted in red, honestly. Perhaps it depends on local management? I don’t find much at the Dover store that I can’t get elsewhere for less so I rarely go, but the employees have been helpful when I’ve been in to try on helmets or something like that. But how would anyone ever go back to a store after being treated as you were???

  8. I miss living in NJ where we had Dover, Beval, Rick’s (the Cream Ridge one had great customer service), and Horsemen’s Outlet (had a huge consignment section and every TS color you could want).

    Here in KY if you want halters or stable supplies, you can find awesome quality products at competitive price. We also have a great feed supply place that carries nice leather halters and will engrave nameplates on site, and delivers for free no matter what you order. They do have specials and customer rewards, so I shop there regularly.

    Our tack shops leave something to be desired. One carries mostly crap so I only get things like bell boots or the occational (overpriced) saddle pad, but I try to avoid it as much as I can after two really bad CS experiences-one is being told they could get a bit in within 2 days if I ordered it but it took over a week (which I then heard from others this is their MO) and a second where the shop owner got pissed at me for pointing out the fact that the nameplate i had ordered was engraved crooked. We have another local place that has higher end products, but little variety.

    I do go to Cinci to shop at Dover. I find their sales staff 110% useless for the most part but they are nice. Just don’t ask them for any information on any products. For us, we stop by when we are up there and I can check things out in person. I like their variety and often their prices are pretty competitive (esp for saddle pads!). You can ask them to type in a code before the product name to see if its on sale.

    Smartpak Im not sure about anymore. I’m honestly a bit annoyed at them right now. I have a pair of pipers, and they rubbed me raw repeatedly. I rode in them 4 times and then gave up. I made a comment about wanting to love them on social media and they told me no problem, send them back and try the knit pipers. So I contacted them and they made me send pictures before I could send them back. I can understand if I rode in these for years but it was 4 times. So I just don’t know anymore.

    1. Sounds like great options in NJ! I think I have been to the stores you mention in KY. I bought a bridle at the newer more “high end” one and they don’t accept returns for refund. I was like WTH? So if it doesn’t fit I can only get store credit – I don’t even live in your state!

      Ekk. The pipers weren’t a good match for me. I wanted to like them for the price but had fit problems, then quality problems… You should test out RW for customer service 🙂 Their prices rock.

    2. I used to love Rick’s but I find that I rarely go there anymore? Of course, I’m talking about the West Chester location. Saddles and that’s about it? Everything else is just overpriced unless there’s a % off coupon or else I can find better prices elsewhere. CS just leaves something to be desired… I know everyone loves their tent sales but it’s really just a bunch of stuff I don’t need and crowds. Is the Cream Ridge location better? Not that I’m planning to drive to NJ to shop, but just curious.

      1. Yeah, basically why I don’t shop at either. I might stop by if I’m bored, but the manager at the one is obnoxious (plus they carry over priced, low quality tack) and the second doesn’t have much.

  9. I typically split my business between an excellent local independent tack store (owned by a friend) and online retailers. I spread my online business between quite a few retailers — SmartPak, RW, State Line Tack, Chick’s Saddlery, and probably some I’ve forgotten, but RARELY Dover. If I’m shopping for the best deal, I almost always go online. For stuff that I need immediately, or great consignment items, or even just fun items (I’m an impulse shopper), I buy local. I will spend a little more to buy local, but I’m not someone who does that exclusively (mostly because as much as I ADORE it, our local tack store doesn’t carry all the brands I want — which I understand, because I get the logistics of stocking inventory, but still).

    1. The CR location is bigger and is more a feed store type. I’ve had good experiences at their sales and with coupons. They let you use them on brands that normally are exempt (Ariat, TS, GPA etc).

      I went to try on boots there, and they said something about a 20% off coupon. I didnt get it in my email and they said that it was a mailer (would have gone to my parents). Anyway, long story short the sales girl went out of her way to make sure we got the % off the boots I was buying.

  10. As an employee of a local, independently owned tack shop, it is so helpful to read things like this: what do customers like and dislike about the brick and mortar stores available in their area?

    My experience at a Dover store in Austin, TX was mediocre. The store was stuffed to the gills, making it difficult to find what I was looking for, and I wasn’t impressed with the customer service.

    1. This – I am happy to give my business to a local store but I am not going to be gouged with prices. I might pay a couple dollars more but not a ton. A pleasant experience with people that stand behind the products they sell is what I want. Why would I buy from a local store if they are not only going to charge me more but also be less likely to give me my money back if it doesn’t work out… No thanks. Glad this was helpful. 🙂

  11. Dover has a store about 2 hours from me, but my experience was similar to yours. Not a lot of selection, subpar customer service and just very underwhelming.

    On the other hand, the SmartPak retail store in MA is pretty awesome — huge, lots of deals and great size selection.

  12. I live in PA right on the NJ border, near where Kristen is from, and we have THE BEST tack shop selection in the country, I’m convinced! I have my pick of Dover, Beval, Horsemen’s Outlet, Bucks County Saddlery, and Do Trot In all within a very easy drive. I shop at all of those stores depending on what I’m looking for. I also go online to find better deals on some things, research different products, or save time by not having to make a special trip to buy something. Dover is definitely not my go-to, however. I will pop in there for things like fly spray or grooming products since the smaller shops near me don’t always stock my preferred brands, but that’s about it. Their ‘sales’ don’t actually offer any significant discounts, and they don’t always carry what I’m looking for. I do like shopping in a brick and mortar store – nothing compares to actually touching and/or trying on something in person – but I prefer shopping at the smaller, local stores if I can. Plus, hello, Dover doesn’t have consignment!!

  13. My Dover experience was great, and I wish I still lived close to one, you can order things in the catalog and have the store ship it to you for free, no matter the cost. Also their return policy is amazing.

  14. We have very few tack stores near where I live in Oregon. An actual store is nice for trying items on and getting stuff the same day (if needed). I’ve been to one Dover store and I was not really impressed. Having multiple prices for the same item is super annoying. Dover definitely has a LONG way to go to catch up with the other online retailers. It has been interesting to see them offer 20% off and free shipping on orders over $100 recently.

  15. I generally dislike the Dover store, but it’s nice that it exists when you need something that same day and cannot wait for shipping. I do miss living on the east coast. I used to live where Alli lives now and there are lots of tack shops and it was enjoyable to shop in them.

  16. What I like about brink and mortar is being able to try things on. Just yesterday I tried on 3 different brands of breeches in 4 different sizes and was really able to figure which fit me the best.

    1. That is very true. I will try on some stuff at my local store but I find that they don’t normally carry whatever I want to try anyways. That has been the case with my newest faves the RJs and the ROMFH Sarafina.

      1. Oops, meant to reply to this comment :0)

        Yeah, it’s hard to find a good local store that has the breech selection of bigger stores. I had that problem when I lived in Santa Cruz, but not so much now….;-)

  17. I am on a major anti-Dover kick right now, and will hopefully never be dealing with them again in the future…at least online. I *maybe* would go to a Dover store just for the experience. Maybe.

    1. Yeah, it’s hard to find a good local store that has the breech selection of bigger stores. I had that problem when I lived in Santa Cruz, but not so much now….;-)

  18. My impression of Dover Saddlery was forever tainted when I called to get sizing information for an item they had in their catalog. The item simply had S,M, or L, and no other sizing info was listed. I asked the customer service rep for detailed sizing information and her response was: “a small will be small, a medium medium, and a large large.” Seriously? Well, that was completely unhelpful. I hung up and called SmartPak and quickly got the information I needed, and the product.

  19. My primary complaint with Dover is their employees’ general lack of knowledge of products they carry… I’ve only ever been to the one in Atlanta, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to educate the ladies working there on some product that they have online/in their catalogue. Case in point, I went there to try on a particular model of boots and they tried to tell me that Dover didn’t sell that model.. so I pulled up their website and was like “Yes. Yes you do.” This also happened with a Samshield accessory. The ladies at that particular store are also quite opinionated and borderline rude. These experiences, combined with the heinous shipping costs, make me kind of hate Dover. I do still love Smartpak though, and find their selection much more satisfactory than RW. I’m also a big fan of Tack Shop of Lexington, though sadly won’t get to go back any time soon 🙁 I’ve gotten some really good deals from them.

  20. I think I’m one of the rare bloggers that really loves Dover! There’s a store 30 min from my house and I’m there more often than I should be….But they’ve always had a great selection, are happy to help when I need some information and leave me alone when I don’t, and have been really flexible about making sure I get EXACTLY what I want. I definitely still shop around when there’s something on my list, but more often than not I end up either at the physical store or ordering online from Dover.

  21. Now let me preface this by saying, yes I do work in a Dover.

    But, all the annoying badgering of multiple workers asking if you need help is required by management, so don’t blame the people working there, believe me, we hate doing it as much as you hate being subjected to it.

    Also, as you know, before Dover came into town I never shopped there. The exorbitant prehistoric shipping policies are ridiculous.

    That being said though, Dover is great for the person who needs the generic item, i.e. fly sprays, generic brand girths, the nothing special item, immediately. We don’t have cool boutiquey clothing items, I wish, we don’t have the newest upcoming brands, again I wish, and we don’t have the latest fashions. Believe me, I wish we did. But the higher ups run on the notion that they’ll sell the tried and true items, not the random fashion piece that might be out of fashion in 6 months.

    The biggest thing Dover has going for it is its ridiculous return policy. Yes, we will return that 5 year old saddle because it hasn’t “held up to you expectations”. We won’t even comment on the fact that it looks like you’ve never conditioned or cleaned said saddle since you bought it. We’ll still do it. So some people like the guarantee that if they end up not liking something, they know they can bring it back.

  22. Not that this is relevant to your discussion of their physical locations, but did anybody else get am email from Dover offering free shipping through Christmas and a revised shipping fee structure in 2017? Interesting!

  23. I’ll run into Dover for stuff I don’t want to wait for or last minute things, but otherwise I just shop online. I’ve done Charlottte’s from time to time, but often for what I’m looking for Dover is actually cheaper weirdly enough.