I have worked in the pet industry for over 25 years. Back in the 1980s the pet industry was considered the independent pet stores, the manufacturers who made the products they sold and the veterinarians. And that was pretty much it.
There was no Internet. The service portion wasn’t that big, nor was the non-profits.
The entire industry’s volume was less than one third of today’s $52.9 billion that the American Pet Products Association estimates, and even less than today’s pet food sales of $20.5 billion.
Things are quite different, to say the least.
Today when I go on a site such as LinkedIn, I can bump into what seems like thousands of pet sitters, dog walkers, trainers and pet bloggers. I am not complaining, just trying to make a simple point.
Our industry is varied, complex and provides many different opportunities that did not exist just one or two decades ago. What will it look like a decade or two from now?
The larger question is how can all of these different parts of our industry work better and more closely together to enable more success and shared growth?
For example, how can you as an independent retailer work more closely with the pet food manufacturers to gain mutual growth and success? Whose responsibility is it? Some would say it’s up to the pet food companies with all of their marketing dollars to help you grow your business.
They may say that they have chosen a distribution strategy to only sell to independent stores and not to market to other channels, such as the mass and grocery – so they are doing you a favor. Then, as a retailer, you could claim that you have a choice as to what brands you’ll carry in your store.
Both of you are correct, and must find a way to work together without waiting for a local or regional rep to come in, because they may not exist.
Have you ever picked up the phone and called the president of the company or division to make a request? Try it sometime: you will be amazed by the result.
If you are a service provider, why aren’t you working with your local pet stores to gain referrals and help drive more customers to them? If you are already doing such smart marketing methods such as that, are you fully maximizing your efforts? Are both of you listed on each other’s websites? Do you give your customers the other’s business card?
Think about it, the more you help the other business, the more they’ll be willing to help you.
As a non-profit shelter or rescue operation, why aren’t you working with your local retailers and non-competitive service providers for the greater good for pet owners?
Finally, we may want to take a look at another consumer industry for suggestions of how to work together for the mutual good.
Let’s take a quick look at the cellular phone industry, and start with the Best Buy chain.
They carry numerous brands of phones and electrical equipment – all which compete with one another.
Best Buy has their various phone vendors come in and do training sessions, which are hands on. They even have some vendors run webinars for their staff on new products, which they will be carrying. And, Best Buy even works with certain non-profit groups with some of their inventory.
I hope you can get the parallels to what Best Buy does and what opportunities are out there for you.
And yes, Best Buy is a large national chain, but they operate locally with their vendors.
Howard London has been in the pet and animal health industries for 25+ years, as a retail chain owner, as well as sales and marketing executive and business owner.