Q: After starting out as a retail store, when and why did Tickners also become a wholesale distributor of pet food and supplies?
A: My grandfather started our business in 1953 as a feed and farm supply store. My father joined the business as a young teenager and grew up in the store where he is still an active part of the business. I also started out as a young man in the store helping where I could and learning the business. Our store diversified into lawn and garden early on and then into pet food and supplies in the late ’70s. One of my early memories of the pet food business is a food line called Wayne, which was the first line of food we distributed in the late ’70s. I finished school in the mid ’80s with a business degree and decided to do more on the distribution [side] by bringing in more brands and expanding our lines.
Q: What are some of the biggest trends that you’ve seen in the pet industry since you began working as a teenager at Tickners?
A: Some of the biggest trends I have seen in the industry have been the quality of food and treats and the humanization of the foods. Many ingredients used in the pet foods decades ago either aren’t used now or have been replaced with healthier ingredients or what we think as consumers are healthier ingredients. The humanization plays a large factor today also—from packaging, to catchy names or exotic proteins. It’s more about the customer appeal.
Q: What category do you consider Tickners’ specialty, and what are some examples of the most popular brands that you carry?
A: Our specialty at Tickners is, and always has been, quality food and treats and a price our retailers are comfortable with. We try to support the small, independent lines that could get lost at a larger distributor. We focus on our lines and try to cater to not only our brands but our retailers as well. Some of our top-selling food and treat lines are Fromm, Merrick, Triumph, Blackwood, Redbarn, Butcher Bock Bones and Spot Farms. We have also expanded into some training aids, pet shampoo, basic collars, harnesses and leashes.
Q: What are the challenges that you face with the popularity of online vendors?
A: The online vendors pose many challenges to smaller distributors like us. They have definitely had an effect on the overall business. Many stores have seen sales in food and treats decline. We do not sell to large box stores or chains. A few manufactures have made the choice to do the same by choosing independent stores.
Q: Which of your pets would you consider your favorite? And what’s your favorite memory of them?
A: My fondest memory was my old Samoyed dog, Tasha (aka Tashie Lou). She would drive into work with me every morning for about 15 years and spend her days in the office with us. Tasha had stories to tell anyone who would listen with her howling and grunting