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'Video calls are important for maintaining a sense of team morale''

Industry members tell us how they are managing in self-isolation

Niamh Spiller: drawing inspiration from Michelle Obama's autobiography
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Tattersalls Ireland marketing manager Niamh Spiller tells us about how she is managing – both personally and professionally – with the Europe-wide lockdown to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

How is life at Tattersalls Ireland ticking over?

It's been ticking over well, given the circumstances.

The team have adapted well with the change to their working environment; it has been challenging though  at this time of year, the office is usually a hive of activity, planning for a whole host of sales coming up over the next few months.

We've lost the Fairyhouse Grand National meeting and are missing out on the €100,000 Tattersalls Ireland George Mernagh Memorial Sales Bumper, which is a shame.

But we do have to look at the bigger picture right now – normality will resume in time, and so will racing and sales. Until then, we have to do our very best to look after everyone and keep our distance.

What are you doing differently in your offices to deal with coronavirus and the lockdown?

Obviously, everyone is working from home and the actual office in Ireland is closed. Communication is key and we have regular meetings on Microsoft Teams which is very different to the way we have previously worked.

I feel these video calls are very important to keep everyone motivated. Working from home can be quite isolating and these calls allow everyone to connect and make plans and they maintain a sense of team morale.

There is also regular communication with our clients, as they understandably have lots of questions.

What's the latest on the Tattersalls Ireland sale schedule? It must be a headache trying to plan with so much uncertainty.

Yes, it's a major headache but, for now, the sale schedule for Tattersalls Ireland remains in line with recent announcements.

We moved the May Store Sale to take place after the Derby Sale. The Breeze-Up Sale is scheduled for the end of May, which allows for another six weeks away from now.

Hopefully, come that time, Ireland and the world will be in a better place.

Travel restrictions must have also disrupted the team's inspection of stock and international marketing trips?

With regards to the inspection of stock, the team are currently adhering to government guidelines and closely monitoring this.

All the store and breeze-up horses were inspected prior to lockdown so it doesn't impact the compilation of the sales in any way.

With regards to the marketing trips, this time of year is usually pretty busy for me with store sale and breeze-up sale promotion. Only this time last year I attended a race meeting in Pisa.

All trips have been put on hold for the foreseeable future, but I have continued to maintain communication with our clients, just checking in on them and advising them of any updates we may have on the sales. You just have to do as best you can right now.

On a personal level, how are you keeping yourself busy during lockdown?

I'm in a lucky position that I live on a yard [Niamh is married to Newmarket trainer Henry Spiller] and have a lot of space to access.

Outside of the working day, and now that the evenings are longer, I've taken to painting the yard but didn’t realise the task I had taken on. But now that I've started, I have to finish!

Any film, TV or book recommendations to share to get through home confinement?

I'm currently reading Michelle Obama’s autobiography – she is a truly inspirational lady. But I'm running out of TV series to watch! Madam Secretary is the most recent one I've got into. It has about 50 episodes so I can binge watch for hours.

What is the availability of groceries and essential products around you like?

Not too bad. We have a super family-owned butcher, Tennant’s, located in Newmarket. The supermarkets, like everywhere, sell out on the most bizarre items – it's nigh-on impossible to get flour and eggs. There must be a new craze for baking in Newmarket!

Chicken fillets are pretty much sold as soon as they hit the shelves and don’t even attempt to get a roll of toilet paper. But we're managing just fine.

What are you most looking forward to when racing returns?

I'm looking forward to the buzz in the town and on the gallops.

Living in Newmarket and at the foot of Warren Hill, normally at this time of year there is a great sense of excitement with the Flat season just getting into full swing and the Craven meeting only around the corner.

This year it feels very different. Trainers are adjusting their training regimes as best they can with no future plans or goals in sight which is very frustrating. Understandably, everyone's in the same boat and for now, all we can do is our best and look after each other.


Read more Life in Lockdown Q&As with industry figures

Jamie Lloyd: 'Staff have had all their own gear labelled, even wheelbarrows'

Micheál Orlandi: 'The stallions are flying and that gives me great hope'

Richard Venn: 'The French are in a good position to get back racing sooner'

Tim Kent: 'It's difficult to plan when we don't know when racing will resume'

Russell Ferris: 'Weatherbys had contingency plans that we activated at once'

Grant and Tom Pritchard-Gordon: 'Inglis Easter has kept us busy since January'

Peter Hockenhull: 'The social side of meeting and chatting to breeders is gone'

Polly Bonnor: 'We've fulfilled every feed order, including all our exports'

Richard Lancaster: 'We're fortunate that some Shadwell staff live on site'

Everyone's in the same boat and for now, all we can do is our best and look after each other
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