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160 year old business embraces more tech to boost sales

A family-run equestrian, pet and smallholding supplies specialist hat has been serving the Yorkshire community for over 160 years has invested in a new e-commerce platform.

The website overhaul at Cleckheaton-based Burnhills is the latest in a series of developments for this fifth-generation firm. What started out in 1855 as a modest operation rolling oats in the cellar of a grocery store has grown to become one of the largest independent brands of its kind in the north of England.  

Its first website was launched four years ago and, until recently, has accounted for 25 per cent of all sales. However, encouraged by healthy online growth and enquiries from beyond the county, Burnhills has invested in a responsive new site that is forecast to drive at least 15 per cent more revenue within the next quarter alone.  

With a wealth of additional features including a convenient “click and collect” facility, advice-led blogs about animal care, and access to competitions, event listings and FAQs, it is hoped the site will be a valuable resource for existing customers too.  

“Customer satisfaction is our number one priority,” said director Ben Burnhill. “So whilst the website will enable us to sell our products to people located throughout Yorkshire and further afield, we hope it will be used as an easy-access, knowledge-filled resource too for our more local clientele.” 

The continued acquisition trail of large, national pet stores has of course made it difficult for this independent retailer. But Ben believes continued success has been achievable by staying true to the business’s differential – offering a personal service.

“We’ll always invest in new technologies,” he added. “But we’ll maintain a parallel commitment to bricks and mortar retail too. We’ll never let Burnhills become a ‘faceless’ organisation in the often impersonal digital world.” 

Burnhills’ extensive product range has also helped the company stand out in recent years. In 2007, the move to its current premises – a 11,500sqft store and warehouse.

He said: “Moving away from the centre of Cleckheaton was very risky. But we invested heavily in the bespoke fit out of this larger space, and thought carefully about what we offered in-store.” 

The relocation allowed Burnhills to stock designer country clothing and specialist equestrian products from world-famous brands such as Hunter and Masta, for example, in addition to the tried and trusted animal feed and pet ranges the business reputation was built upon.

Ben added: “Not many firms can boast a heritage that started in 1855 and is still going strong to this day. But I think our success lies in combining family values with forward thinking.

“We pride ourselves on the quality of our traditional, face-to-face customer service, whilst ensuring we keep pace with business trends and the needs and demands of the ever-savvier consumer. That’s why our 17th decade looks as exciting as it does.”

Burnhills 010
Ben Burnhill

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