In the eyes of Coraly Hutin, General Manager of West Cheval
Your career path is atypical, Coraly. But when you have a passion, everything leads to horse riding ?
Yes, I am a pure self-taught. I got my agricultural technician's diploma, became a riding instructor, and then worked in sales at Décathlon Angers. And it was a replacement in the saddlery that confirmed my professional path. My customers at the time encouraged me to open a shop in Le Mans, where there was no such offer. With €15,000 in my pocket and a lorry that was just about ready to go, I started to go round the clubs and showgrounds and offer my products. I was 22 years old, it was very rootsy :)
Then a first shop and the key encounter with the Pôle Européen du Cheval.
Opened on the outskirts of Le Mans, my first shop was small, very busy, a sort of cave! At the same time, I exhibited every weekend at the Pôle Européen, which hosted competitions in Yvré-L'Evêque. And as I was fed up with moving all the time, I went to see Philippe Rossi and asked him if I could rent him 75 m² of premises that he wasn't using. It was a no-brainer. I was then at the heart of a site that already had an influence beyond the region: 37 competition weekends, 47,000 riders engaged over the year, a substantial hotel park, a multidisciplinary offer...
Today, West Cheval is considered to be the largest independent saddlery in France.
We have indeed grown! We moved this year to a 600 m² building, to which we added the warehouse and offices that house the common services and in particular the web activity, which is growing in strength. Over the last three years, we have doubled our e-commerce turnover and increased the number of employees fivefold, and we have almost 50,000 regular customers. In the horse world, the health crisis has boosted our performance, and people have refocused on their passion. In short, all the lights are green. Our next challenge will be to diversify into the racing world (gallopers, trotters, etc.), where the needs are very specific, and to develop our positioning towards a more technical and innovative dimension. This is the reason behind our partnerships with riders such as Grégory Cottard and Marc Dilasser, who bring this professional perspective to West Cheval products.
Ekkia is one of your loyal suppliers. What do you expect from them?
It is one of my key suppliers and has been for 25 years. It was at the Salon du Cheval that Pascal and I met for the first time, where we were both setting up our stand. Over the years, Ekkia and West Cheval have grown up. As today everything is moving faster and faster, the criteria of availability of items and speed of delivery are becoming important. After that, I am quite attentive to the environmental commitment of my suppliers. Ekkia's Green Impact is a step in the right direction with the use of recycled materials, but also the efforts made on more "eco-friendly" product packaging. I am aware that the carbon footprint of my business is a subject, I would like everything to be manufactured in France.
Which human or relational quality do you prefer and which do you hate?
I have trouble with people who are either disingenuous or cheesy, or both! The quality that I place at the top is integrity, a sense of commitment.
"If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine, it is deadly" (Paulo Coelho)
EKKIA in a word?