January 13, 2017

By Doug Poindexter

When I first entered the industry as a tropical fish hobbyist more than 40 years ago, it was very much family run, particularly on the retail side. Today, in the U.S. alone, pet retail is a more than $60 billion industry with pet products in almost every retail setting you can imagine.

The industry is constantly evolving, and retailers have grabbed onto this increasingly profitable industry. Being a leader—of your team, of your industry and in your community—has never been more difficult or wracked with more strategic decision making each and every day.

It’s in your best interest to equip your team members with the training and tools they need to provide the best possible customer experience. Learning how to differentiate themselves and your store by continuing to be the neighborhood alternative with personable customer service and unique products is important to the success of your business. Your team has to know their community and customers to keep them loyal and coming back.

They have to keep ahead by being innovative and doing things like partnering with groomers or others in the service side of the industry. Groomers, especially, can be a trusted resource for their customers and should be included in getting to know merchandise so they can help sell to clients.

An obvious way is to set a positive example for your team and impart knowledge from your time as a business owner. You can also bring them to distributor trade shows or to annual events like SuperZoo, where they can get a firsthand view of our industry and gain valuable perspective. With more than 1,200 exhibitors, there’s literally something for all retailers.

Each year, we see seasoned managers using SuperZoo as a learning and mentorship opportunity for their employees. SuperZoo and other trade shows and events are a great tool for them to learn the art of the deal, how to build relationships with suppliers and how to select products that will appeal to customers. Because SuperZoo has grown so much over the past few years, retailers need to have a plan in advance of the show. This way, they can determine which vendors they need to see, including the new exhibitors with whom to network, but still leaving time to wander the show floor.

Investing in your employees sends a clear signal that they genuinely matter to you and to the success of your business. If you equip them with the tools to succeed, they will be more motivated, work harder and (hopefully) make more sales. It also helps build loyalty. Loyal employees are more engaged, and engaged employees are more productive.

This is a motivator behind our SuperZoo education program; we want pet retailers to be successful. Last year, we had more than 80 education sessions covering a wide variety of topics, including staff training, human resources, leadership, social media, customer service and marketing, among others. Grooming and service industry education sessions were geared toward how to build your business by adding rapid growth areas including day care, boarding and dog training. Animal wellness sessions focused on small animal care in stores and best practices for birds, reptiles and fish.

With the industry growing each year—currently with $18.5 billion in combined revenue and 3.1 percent annual growth, according to recent IBIS World research—empowering employees by providing them with essential industry information and training is something you should take very seriously. In addition to networking, SuperZoo can help provide employees an actionable path to better position themselves as leaders.

This unique opportunity helps pet retailers evaluate employee savvy, bond with their team and improve morale. The importance of having an educated, motivated staff and the effect it can have on your bottom line can’t be understated.

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