With a shortage of materials and still-high shipping prices threatening the production and distribution of pet products, Pet Palette Distribution’s senior buyer, Megan Hulse, says that 2022 may just be “the perfect storm” for retailers.
But by preparing in advance, Hulse believes that retailers can brace themselves for that storm and come out ahead. Here’s how to stay ahead of issues that are outside your control.
How Vendors are Navigating Rising Costs
Hulse said that manufacturers are testing new strategies to help them save money, including:
- Offering fewer colors or sizes of products.
- Using cheaper materials in production.
- Retiring or pausing SKUs that are no longer financially viable.
“Vendors are going back to the drawing board to create new or altered products that maintain their integrity, but don’t involve expensive materials,” explained Hulse. “This means we could see some exciting new products in 2022, but we could also see a shortage of best-selling products that no longer make financial sense to produce.”
Guidance for Larger Retailer Operations
Even though the future is uncertain, savvy distributors will be working with manufacturers to assess known stock issues, notes Hulse.
“If you’re a retailer, check in with your distributor early to ask about stock issues,” she advised. “Get upfront time to make an alternative plan, rather than being caught without the ability to reorder.”
Hulse also shared that the size of the distributor may not make a difference when it comes to order fulfillment.
“It’s all about projections. At Pet Palette Distribution, we spend hundreds of hours each year, analyzing trends and pricing to determine what we should have in stock,” she said. “Last year, that paid off — we had fill rates consistently in the mid-90s, even in the midst of major supply issues. Retailers should work with a distributor who can provide reassurance and customized service, even at this very strange time.”
Tips for Smaller Retailers
Hulse recognized that smaller retailers may not have personal relationships with their distributors. Still, she recommended these retailers ask their distributor’s customer service department about known stock issues or potential replacement products.
Hulse noted that there may be a silver lining for smaller retailers who can operate as a boutique, rather than always stocking the same products.
“Given the issues we are seeing across the industry, it may be smart for smaller retailers to seize this opportunity, and test out new inventory on their pegs,” she said.
Toni Shelaske, the owner of three independent pet stores called Healthy Pet Products, agrees that it’s a good time for retailers to try new or seasonal products, and to remain in touch with their distributor.
As a customer of Pet Palette Distribution, Shelaske says the company “offers a lot of helpful programs for independent retailers that you don’t always find with traditional distributors. Their order minimum is very low, plus you get free shipping with an order over $349, which makes it easy to try out a variety of products and brands with less risk.”
Avoid the Gloom and Doom
The last two years have brought a lot of unexpected changes, both to our industry and society overall, says Hulse.
“But as we have learned throughout the pandemic, the best thing we can do is to find opportunities, stay patient and most importantly — work with partners you can trust,” Hulse concluded.