August 25, 2015

Then the real work begins.

The company, which was started with the idea of being the champion of the independent pet retailer, feels bringing quality products is only the start of how it serves its customers.

Whether it’s advice about remodeling, product placement, expansion of products or marketing tips to land new customers, the Animal Supply Company representative is there.

“Each sales representative is a partner with a store owner, with a mission of ‘Delivering Success’ to their business,” CEO George Ristevski said. “This means partnering with the independent retailers to provide ideas, recommend products, and assist with events to help them grow their business.

“The key for us is really delivering value-added services. To really differentiate ourselves, we offer customers anything they need inside the walls – the types of things that the small entrepreneur may not have access to.”

It’s the type of approach that has enabled Animal Supply Company to see tremendous year-over-year growth for nearly decades.
And the type of approach that helped make the company the Pet Age 2015 Distributor of The Year.

“One of the most important roles of a distributor is to deliver new products and services to the customer; that’s what we’re here for,” Ristevski said. “We’re here to partner with our vendors to be able to deliver new or innovative products each and every day.”
Whatever that may be.

“Our Retail Services Group offers value-added services to their retail partners including: new store designs, remodel designs, frozen pet food freezer program and product training videos,” Ristevski said.

Doing so, he said, is a difference-maker.

“Independent pet retailers can compete with a well-designed store, stocking the latest products, and offering vital product information and services to their customers,” he said.

Helping independent pet retailers compete by delivering the best service possible. That’s been the motto of Animal Supply Company since it was founded in the Seattle suburb of Federal Way, Wash. by Randy Reber and partners in 1987.
This customer-first philosophy has served the company well. Since 1987, the company has had an astounding average growth rate of at least 30 percent per year and more than 50 percent more recently.

As a result of this growth, the company was able to realize its vision of moving from a regional presence in the West to a national player by increasing its number of warehouses from 8 to 28 – with plans to add more.

Ristevski says some of the growth came from acquisitions but he proudly notes that the growth didn’t stop during the 2009 recession. In fact, the company came out of the recession stronger than ever, and has continued its growth and expansion across the country.
The company continues its plans to grow its national distribution coverage with its recent expansion into the Northeast market.

And there is the ability to grow with the times.

Ristevski said Animal Supply Company is ready for the “humanization trend” in the pet industry.

“Today we treat our pets as family,” he said. “They go on vacations with us, they go to work with us, they travel with us everywhere
we go.”

So it’s no surprise that as human food trends go, so do pet foods.

Farm to table? How about farm to bowl?

“Pet owners not only want to know what’s in their pet’s food but where it comes from too,” Ristevski said. “This trend creates a demand for specialized products such as grain-free, gluten-free, GMO-free food and treats.

“Our challenge is to meet this humanization trend by quickly identifying the best products to offer our customers. It’s our goal to keep our customers as leaders in supplying the best and newest products in the market. Our sales teams are highly informed about the food ingredients and their quality so they can educate our customers.”

But it’s more than just food, Ristevski said.

There is a need to have a broad portfolio,” he said. “Not only in pet foods but treats and supplies and everything an independent retailer needs to be successful, everything a retailer needs to bring traffic in.

“If we can provide the right information along with our vendor partners to support that retailer, we can help bring in the traffic and that’s what it’s all about.”

Being national helps Animal Supply Company to supply the right information.

Ristevski notes the company’s ability to try out products and trends in small markets before introducing them nationally. Or to try out other areas in the industry, such as the veterinarians or groomers.

“We can clearly see the changes, from eight warehouses to 28 … from 150 associates to 1,500,” he said. “But that’s just a small part. If we don’t have that value system of serving our customers and really responding to what they need, it really doesn’t matter.
“We will embrace that, no matter how big or small we are. The single most important feature for us is that we are ‘Local Everywhere.’”

No matter how much the company has grown, Ristevski confirms it hasn’t lost its sense of purpose.

“Each and every day we wake up thinking we need to deliver success,” he said “That is our tagline, it was from the very beginning and always will be our tagline.

“It is part of our company culture, each and every associate knows that is what we live for: We’re there to serve our customers, we’re there to be a local entity, we’re there to make sure we can provide what our customers want.”

Which brings us back to the idea of serving the individual store. Regardless of how big the company has grown – or will grow – Ristevski said it will not change its motto.

In fact, he said, getting bigger is only helping it remain true to its original vision.

“We have the great balance of having a national footprint but we are ‘Local Everywhere,’” Ristevski said. “We’re trying to make sure each and every one of our customers knows that we’re local [but that] each and every one of our customers benefits from our scale.”

How so? Ristevski explains it.

“With our national size, we have a dedicated product and marketing department with a specialist over each product category,” he said.

“These specialists work closely with the local sales leaders and marketing teams. They are committed to identifying and introducing emerging products to the market and they research and identify industry trends to meet customer demands.”

It’s the best of both worlds.

“We bring all of the benefits of being big while having a strong local presence,” Ristevski said.
“First and foremost the philosophy of being ‘Local Everywhere’ is a distinction,” he said. “Second, we are not only a distributor but we have the scale to be able to bring value-added services and resources to our smaller customers who may not otherwise have access to it.”

“This is how Animal Supply Company delivers success — we not only provide the products, but partner with the store owner to sell the products.”

But don’t worry, Animal Supply Company makes sure each store maintains its own identity.

“Being independent doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be independent of any outside resources,” Ristevski said. “Being independent is a value system, is a culture, is a set of principles.”

“We were founded on the principals of serving the independent channel, we were founded on the principals of staying focused on our customers. The fact that we can bring additional resources to them, doesn’t change that. We will always be focused on serving our independent pet retailer.”

-Lori Bergeron

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