Pet Age recently spoke with Blaine Phillips, who in February was elected CEO of Phillips Pet Food & Supplies by its board of directors.
Considering that you retired five years ago, why have you returned as CEO of Phillips Pet Food & Supplies?
I’m incredibly proud of my family legacy — my grandfather started Phillips as a single store in 1938, with the goal of delighting our customers and creating a great place to work. It has been a pleasure to be a part of the incredible transformation that has taken Phillips to where we are today, while keeping my family’s objectives at our core. Though I retired from the CEO position in 2016, I made sure to stay in touch with what was going on in the pet industry and at Phillips. In November, I reinvested as an owner of Phillips and assumed the role of Chairman of the Board. When asked to return as CEO, it was an easy and quick decision for me to say yes. After spending 35 years building Phillips into a great company, I know the business so well that it’s like I never left. Phillips is home to me and I am excited as well as honored to be leading the company once again.
What’s your overview of the pet market as it is in 2021, and how does it compare to when you were last Phillips CEO in 2016?
While some things are different, our industry is still thriving and the demand for pet food and supplies continues to grow at an impressive rate. During the pandemic, pet ownership has increased as companionship has become more important, which has driven the demand for Phillips’ products. We continue to see national retailers, e-commerce players and independent retailers finding ways to be successful in the marketplace. Even though e-commerce has become a bigger player than it was previously, independent retailers continue to have a strong presence. In addition, operating in a pandemic environment has its own unique challenges, driving us to become more efficient in a challenging cost environment and to address new complications in the supply chain.
What are the key factors to future success for Phillips Pet Food & Supplies?
This business is about serving our customers and investing in relationships with our vendors, while also creating a great culture and work environment for our Phillips team members. We take great pride in our strong relationships and we take our customers’ loyalty seriously. As we pursue renewed growth and evolution, we continue to believe that providing the highest quality services and products to all our customers is the key to our success as a business.
Do you foresee Phillips experiencing any organizational changes going forward?
My objective has been to ensure a seamless transition and to focus on our strategic priorities. Nothing has changed about our business except for its leadership and we are not planning major changes beyond a redoubled focus on executing against our goals.
How have pets had an impact on your personal life and well-being?
I’ve had pets all my life so I can’t imagine not having a dog. They brighten up any bad day at the office and I treasure how easy they are to be around. Through the difficulties of 2020, their companionship and joy are even more important to me and my wife Sheryl. During the pandemic, we spent more time than ever with our golden retriever, Summer, and west highland terrier, Louie, who are truly part of our family and come with us everywhere. With Louie and Summer, it’s also the first time we’ve ever had two dogs and it’s been incredible to see their bond with each other — they’re like two peas in a pod. I will say, Louie is a big dog in a small dog’s body and is definitely in charge between the two.