Profit is the name of the game in most business ventures, of course. But sometimes business owners have to forego short-term profits to meet long-term goals.
Curt and Sharon Jacques, owners of West Lebanon Feed and Supply in West Lebanon, NH, found themselves in that situation earlier this winter. A shortfall in the local supply of hay, due mostly to an unusually wet, cold growing season in 2008, meant many of their horse-owning customers were struggling to pay for feed. “Historically, we’ve been able to count on local farmers to meet our needs,” says Curt Jacques, noting his store typically sells 100 small square bales a week during the cold weather months, mostly to local horse owners. “But the weather we had last year was terrible for making hay. It affected both the quality and the quantity of the local supply.”
In turn, the supply shortage pushed up average prices for 35-lb bales to the $8 level heading into the winter months. “It was to the point where a lot of people were thinking about getting rid of their animals because they couldn’t afford feed,” says Jacques. “And, for obvious reasons, that’s something we didn’t want to see happen.”
To address the problem, the Jacques opted to bring in a semi load of bales from Quebec. They offered the hay to customers at cost during a special Saturday sale event in early January. On the day of the sale, the bales sold out quickly. About 40 customers paid $4.83 for mixed grass hay bales weighing around 45 lbs. When a waiting list developed after that event, the Jacques followed up by holding a second “at cost” sale in mid-January. It was equally well-attended, and now a third sale is planned for early next month.
“We look at it as an investment in our business and in the animal husbandry industry in general,” says Jacques. “If we can provide hay at a more-reasonable price, our customers will still be around to buy from us. It’s also just the right thing to do.”
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