Pet Age’s Alexandra Wepner spoke with Tara Whitehead on MidWest Homes for Pets’ long journey to the pet industry and how retailers can use online resources to their advantage.
Q Your website says you’ve been in business for over 90 years—that’s a long time! Tell us more about your history.
A Mid-West Metal Products Co. Inc., was founded in 1921 in Muncie, Indiana, with only one patented product: the Kruse Switch Box Support. The Great Depression severely impacted the construction of new homes and the need for the Kruse Switch Box Supports, so in 1931, Mid-West decided to change from manufacturing metal stamping products to wire manufacturing.
Mid-West achieved steady growth by manufacturing and selling products such as wire rubbish burners, wire displays for grocery stores and department stores, wire fan guards, barbecue grills, wire “Stor Stack” containers, and material-handling baskets used in factory assembly lines. In 1958, the company learned that a pet shop in Detroit was buying a large quantity of rectangle-shaped rubbish burners. Further investigation revealed that these rubbish burners were being sold as dog “cages” to train puppies in the housebreaking process. This was the beginning of a new product line.
Pet products produced steady growth for MidWest during the 1970s and 1980s, and in 1988 MidWest Homes for Pets became a division of Mid-West Metal Products.
Today, MidWest products span many pet categories, and we offer more than just wire-formed products. We have an extensive and successful line of textile products in our QuietTime pet beds and accessories like crate covers and small animal fabric accessories.
Q What are some important lessons you’ve learned after so much time in business?
A We’ve learned that it is imperative to be responsive to customer needs and to be innovative in finding solutions to common problems faced by pet parents. We work very closely with our customer service, quality assurance, research & design and shipping and receiving teams, and communicate daily about existing and new products to rectify any issues that may arise in production, packaging or shipping. We know that the strength of our business is built on the strength of our team and our ability to work together and communicate effectively each and every day.
Q Which are your most successful products?
A The iCrate, which is a product line proven to be of great quality at an excellent price point. We’ve worked hard to inform pet parents of the virtue of providing a personal den-like space for pets, and we’ve provided a great deal of resources and training guides to educate pet parents on using a crate as a tool for housebreaking and potty training. It comes with our personal and responsive customer support and our 1-year limited manufacturer’s warranty, like many MidWest products.
Q Why do you feel it is important to provide retailers with lots of resources online?
A MidWest is part of a global market and a large share of our retailers and distributors operate in a different time zone—or country, for that matter. We want our resources to be available on demand, as needed. It’s also what today’s market demands: information at your fingertips.
Q Any tips for retailers selling MidWest Homes for Pets?
A We appreciate retailers who are committed to helping each customer with their selection and shopping experience and who are able to provide expertise and supplemental resources to each pet parent.
For example, it is imperative that pet parents select the correct size crate for their dog or puppy. Many pet parents purchase a crate that is too small, not realizing how quickly their puppy will grow. This leads to dissatisfaction, as pet parents are forced to purchase a larger crate.
Assistance in selecting the appropriately-sized product is just an example. MidWest also recommends that retailers carry our How to Crate Train educational brochures and point-of-purchase sizing guides and crate training materials to help the customer in their purchase journey.