As COVID-19 continues to reshape the landscape of most businesses, many companies have been forced to find a way to be resilient in the face of adversity. As the book “The Obstacle” notes, “Overcoming obstacles is a discipline of three critical steps. It begins with how we look at our specific problems, our attitude or approach; then the energy and creativity with which we actively break them down and turn them into opportunities; finally, the cultivation and maintenance of an inner will that allows us to handle defeat and difficulty.”
Whether it is supply chain, staffing or the ability to address challenges and work through them, this method helps our thriving industry continue to provide pet families with companionship and the necessary supplies.
These opportunities will continue into 2022, allowing us to keep growing and serving our communities. As we look to the future, discussing the year ahead with our partners and other industry professionals, a few factors percolate to the top with consistency. The primary of which is labor, followed by supplies and the question: What can be passed on to consumers?
Cultivating quality team members for your company can easily be what sets you apart from others in the marketplace. Not only is it important to have a trained team, but to also have a team that is valuable and knows they are valued. While some will say increases in wages are hurting the market or less people are working, that does not help solve the problem for you nor your customers. Increased wages to provide service can be passed on to the consumer within reason, and when asked, consumers expect to spend more for a better experience.
Having these team members to help customers, answer their questions and provide recommendations will lead to repeat visits. Along with the increased wages, businesses should work to get more from team members by providing additional training. Investing your time and leadership’s time into helping your team be the best they can be is a win-win. Not only does your business stand out, but your team members are empowered through knowledge and responsibility.
When we shift to supplies, which can be dry goods or live animals, this is dynamic. We all experienced the disruptions and delays, but again the question remains: How can you capitalize on that opportunity? Are you able to create new partnerships, or expand current partnerships, to keep what you need in stock? Communicating with suppliers for up-to-date lead times or alternatives, if supply is not available, is essential. While the concept is straight forward, are you able to offer an alternative for your customer if supply is not available? In what can be a challenging time for suppliers, it is helpful to take the lead on communication and understanding things are shifting, customer service is not always top priority in a hectic environment. Making regular calls to touch base with suppliers will go a long way. Can your team educate the customer on the option you have to augment your supply? You can see how this would bring value to the customer by having a team and options that keep from going elsewhere.
In this environment what can we pass on to the customer? If you have increased prices, did you see sales drop? We have all seen items increase in price, like milk and wood, but they continue to be purchased. What about live animals or goods? The value for the company not only comes from pet purchases but the habitats, accessories and continued food needs. We recently discussed testing price increases for 90 days with a partner of ours. This test was on items that have a high demand, and just in 90 days the sales on these items dropped over 50 percent. Are you willing to lose all the additional sales so you can make a slightly better margin on one item? If you raised your team members wages $3 to $4 an hour to be competitive, consider how much that is actually increasing your operating costs. What would you lose without them? Is the impact so great that you need to increase prices? What is critical to pricing is profit visibility and pricing strategy. As price increases are needed, consider “nibbling” incremental increases and spreading it across many or all items to make it more palatable for your customer.
The success of your store hinges on your ability to find those new solutions and adapt your store, your staff and your products to the world in which we live. When we put our minds toward finding solutions and refining processes new opportunities can readily be found for your business. By most projections, 2022 will be a year full of opportunities and growth for the pet industry.
John Mack is the founder and CEO of Reptiles by Mack. He is also the chair of the PIJAC board of directors and is on the PIJAC Zoonosis Committee. His Ohio-based company is widely recognized as one of the largest reptile breeders and suppliers in the USA today.