BY STEVE KING
Entrepreneurial-minded retailers with small stores know they have to differentiate themselves and be the neighborhood alternative with personable customer service and unique, hand-selected products. And they have to really know their community and customers to keep them loyal and keep them coming back time and again.
Since 1968, the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) has tried to stay true to its mission to “enhance the well-being of the wholesaler-distributor, to promote partnerships with their suppliers and customers, and to work cooperatively in fostering the human-companion animal bond.”
Nearly a decade ago, PIDA recognized that competition from big box stores and mass merchants was taking a toll on independent retailers’ profitability and viability in the pet products marketplace. Independents’ competitive advantage should have been their status as the trusted source of advice on products that pet owners needed to keep their furred or finned family members healthy and happy. But a lack of consistent and effective training for store associates too often led to consumer frustration.
PIDA developed Pet Store Pro to address this situation. Designed as an easy-to-use online training tool available at no cost to any qualified retailer, Pet Store Pro has grown rapidly. A little under 6,000 retail stores have used the training, and more than 28,000 store associates have completed one or more training modules. Micro-courses—designed to be completed in less than 30 minutes—are increasingly popular, with Pet Retail Basics and Suggestive Selling assigned to more than 4,000 employees each.
Pet Store Pro partnered last year with the World Pet Association (WPA) to sponsor the WPA Retail Operating Performance Report. The survey provides pet retailers with easy-to-understand guidelines for evaluating a company’s financial, operating and sales figures. The report is free to participating retailers and can be purchased by those who missed the 2017 survey.
PIDA’s expertise in providing education and training geared specifically for independent retailers extends to its partnership with the American Pet Products Association in co-sponsoring Global Pet Expo. Known as the largest annual pet industry trade show in the world, Global’s massive trade show floor is the center of attention each March in Orlando.
But just across the foyer from the show entrance, the Global Pet Expo Academy features more than 30 hours of seminars, workshops and mini-sessions on topics as diverse as “New Trends in Retail Design,” “The Science and Art of Buying” and “Staffing Made Simple.” The 24 sessions offered at the 2017 Global Pet Expo Academy were attended by nearly 1,600 retailers. With an average speaker grade of 4.37 on a fivepoint scale, participant satisfaction was high. And every Global Pet Expo Academy session is provided free of charge to qualified show attendees.
This year, PIDA has partnered with Pet Age to bring the best of the academy’s offerings to retailers all year long. A series of six one-hour webinars featuring Lynn Switanowski of Creative Business Consulting Group is being offered free-of-charge to retailers. Switanowski is a familiar presence at Global Pet Expo and other industry trade shows, having presented seminars to hundreds of retailers on effective use of social media, enhancing profitability and managing staff. If you’ve missed any of these webinars, they are archived and available on the Pet Age website.
The pet industry is served by a wide variety of associations with distinct roles in advancing and improving the care of pets. The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) sponsors research into all the ways pets enhance and improve human life. The Pet Care Trust’s Pets in the Classroom program has funded nearly 100,000 grants allowing teachers to bring a pet into the lives of more than 4 million children. The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) protects the industry from adverse legislation and works with public policy makers to improve regulations designed to protect native wildlife, ensure proper care for pets and keep bad actors from unfairly competing with legitimate businesses.
PIDA is a supporter of each of these organizations, contributing several hundredthousand dollars a year to help them fulfill their missions. PIDA is also a founding member of the Pet Leadership Council, a coalition of trade associations, humane organizations and private companies that seeks to help the public understand the important role that the industry plays in the health and well-being of their pets.
The current level of cooperation among pet industry organizations is practically unprecedented. All segments of the industry benefit when we work together. As PIDA approaches its 50th anniversary, the future for our distributor members, their retailer customers and the pet-owning public looks bright!