When I was a child, the Miller’s catalog was like an equestrian ’Wish Book.’ I’d thumb through the pages, dreaming about all those wonderful items. While other kids talked about visiting New York City to see the Statue of Liberty, I wanted to see the Miller’s retail store. When I finally saved enough money to purchase my first show bridle, I knew exactly what I wanted: a Crosby. And, many decades later, that same bridle still hangs in my tack room.
The Miller’s name and its house brands, like Crosby, are well established. Until last year, rarely could you find a retailer that didn’t carry some Miller’s products. In 2002, as restocking slowed, most of the equestrian world figured something was up. With retailers watching closely, the story about the break up of Miller’s parent company, EEG, unfolded. The final chapter was the actual sale of Miller’s (see this issue), which put several different companies in charge of its wholesale and retail operations.
Of course, this isn’t the first time Miller’s has been sold - and we understand the brands we’ve come to know will remain - but we also know that new hands on the reins can change a horse’s performance and that of a business as well.
On the positive side, WeatherBeeta and Dover Saddlery are strong names most riders are familiar with, even if the companies don’t have a history as deep as Miller’s. But they know the industry and, more importantly, they know tack. They also recognize the value of the names they’ve purchased. They know that Miller’s built its reputation marketing products with dependable quality, so consumers felt confident they were getting what they were paying for.
Overall, how this sale will affect the industry and consumers is anybody’s guess. For now, it may be wise when considering a Miller’s product to ask a few more questions at your tack store or catalog, to find out if it’s new stock or left over from before the sale of the company. In fact, never underestimate the value of getting to know your store’s owner or manager. Usually, these professionals know exactly where the products they’re selling originated from and will tell you about it. Don’t hesitate to ask the sales rep if you can speak with someone who has a broader knowledge of the product. You may be amazed at what you’ll learn.
After all, it’s really the people that actually tan the leather and do the stitching that make the difference. For now, we’ll just have to wait to see if a few years from now the Miller’s name still means what it did when I first oiled my Crosby bridle.