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Keep Fighting the Good Fight

Doug Poindexter, president of the World Pet Association, shares his thoughts on what the biggest challenges independent pet retailers are facing today.


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"Brick-and-mortar locations will always have their place, especially among people seeking an authentic shopping experience," said Doug Poindexter, president of the World Pet Association.

Pet Product News: What must independent pet retailers do differently from the big-box and online pet stores to remain relevant in 2017 and beyond?
Doug Poindexter: Competition, whether from their peers or from the larger chains and online retailers like Chewy and Amazon that have grabbed onto this increasingly profitable industry. They have to differentiate themselves by continuing to be the neighborhood alternative with personable customer service and unique, hand-selected products. And they have to really know their community and customers, to keep them loyal and keep them coming back time and again. It’s hard work! They have to keep ahead by being innovative and doing things like partnering with groomers or others in the service side of the industry. Or starting an online store to complement the brick-and-mortar location.

PPN: What are a couple of differences between the local pet store from 20 years ago to the local pet store of 2016?
DP: It’s the size and growth rate of the industry. According to research from IBIS World, pet retail is currently at $18.5 billion in combined revenue and a 3.1 percent annual growth rate.
When I first entered the industry as a tropical fish hobbyist more than 40 years ago, it was very much family run, especially on the retail side. Today, it’s a more than $60 billion industry with pet products in almost every retail setting you could think of. So, it’s important for retailers to stay ahead of the curve—and their competition.

When I first entered the industry as a tropical fish hobbyist more than 40 years ago, it was very much family run, especially on the retail side. Today, it’s a more than $60 billion industry with pet products in almost every retail setting you could think of. So, it’s important for retailers to stay ahead of the curve—and their competition.

PPN: Will there always be a need for local brick-and-mortars, or are their days numbered because of tough business and environmental regulations, cheaper online sales, and big-box retailers and the fact that they can undercut on price and selection?
DP: Brick-and-mortar locations will always have their place, especially among people seeking an authentic shopping experience. And particularly for millennials, who tend to favor small-store formats in walkable urban locations, rather than less-accessible big-box options.
That being said, it’s smart for retailers to diversify their offerings. According to WPA’s Retail Operating Performance Report, among pet retailers without an online store, 50 percent would like to open one within the next year. Online sales are incredibly lucrative, with Internet sales growing 23 percent in 2015 and more than 80 percent of people online reporting making an online purchase. E-commerce may not be the right answer for everyone, though, and running a successful online store takes smart planning, research and a dedicated effort.

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