Bucking the Trend
Ever evolving, influenced by no one and a believer in outside-the-box thinking, the independent spirit of one North Carolina pet store soars.
In the world of retail, an individualistic perspective often translates to the accurate assessment of trends, innovation and the ability to shift focus to remain on the cutting edge of consumer demand. It’s a credo embraced by All Pets Considered in Greensboro, N.C.
When Kristine Godfrey started her business in 1992, the lifelong animal lover ignored warnings that her refusal to sell puppies or kittens would be her downfall.
“Kristine was definitely bucking the trend,” said Alison Schwartz, manager of the 25-year-old store. “She was told her business would never survive without selling pets.”
Instead, Godfrey partnered with local rescue organizations to promote pet adoption, joining a movement that was beginning to gather momentum. Her inventory featured pet foods and supplies for all manner of critters, including aquatic creatures.
As consumer emphasis on nutrition and the supply needs of dogs and cats expanded, aquatics and small animals were phased out. Soon, the original 3,000-square-foot site was outgrown, and a move to a new location in 2000 brought the entire square footage to 12,000.
At the heart of All Pets Considered is stellar customer education and service, presented by outstanding, knowledgeable staff members.
“We focus on staff education in order to truly assist our customers,” Schwartz said. “We go to great lengths to research the issue and help with product selection.”
Associates participate in bi-monthly training hosted by various manufacturers. Independent study and research, along with sharing new information with fellow staff, is encouraged. Monthly meetings with local veterinarians provide health issue updates. On the sales floor, a “cheat sheet” reviews many common health issues, offering dietary suggestions that could be beneficial to a particular symptom or issue.
“Many of our employees use this sheet as a jumping-off point to assist customers in food selections,” she said.
In an effort to cultivate this high level of service, monitor traffic flow, ensure sufficient staffing and maintain the overall atmosphere, a secret shopper service has been used at All Pets Considered since 2000.
Building and maintaining a strong relationship with manufacturer representatives is another aspect to providing an exceptional customer service experience and enhancing community involvement.
“Our reps have been behind some of our events or have shared ideas that we have tailored to be productive in our store,” Schwartz said.
A Diverse Mix
In-store products include a broad selection of premium pet foods at a wide range of prices. Proponents of raw feeding can peruse four double-glass freezers and one single freezer. Three freezers in a back room handle overstock.
“We’re big on raw, but we also offer a large selection of freeze-dried and premium kibble,” Schwartz said.
Foods are primarily sourced from the USA, and no foods or treats contain ingredients from China. Also, regionally sourced products receive priority.
The store’s Biscuit Bar displays goodies from a local baker.
Local artisans are represented, as well.
“A local woodworker provides double diners and treat canisters,” Schwartz said.
The store offers supplements, grooming products, collars and leashes, and toys, as well as gift items, including cards, pet boutique items, T-shirts, figurines and seasonal items. Pet attire is also popular.
“I dress my dog, Merida, in a new outfit everyday; she comes to work with me and I post a photo on Instagram,” she said. “This has really boosted our clothing sales.”
To compete with online commerce, Schwartz recently launched delivery service.
In 2005, Schwartz phased out the store’s dog day care when she lost part of the green space behind the store and added grooming services.
Three full-time and one part-time groomer provide services for dogs and cats, as well as nail clipping for all manner of creatures, from birds to rabbits.
Moreover, in cooperation with the local shelter, homeless pets often enjoy a luxurious salon and spa day, seasoned with a wealth of love and attention from All Pets Considered groomers and staff.
“These makeovers have been life changing for the animals, and they are quickly adopted,” Schwartz said.
“We want to be part of it and to give back, because the community supports us,” Schwartz said. “There’s not a group in this town that we don’t work with or try to work with.”
Adoption days are held on a frequent basis, and a wide range of area rescues and agencies are championed. However, on-site adoptions are not permitted.
“We discourage impulse adoptions,” she said. “If a rescue has a pre-approved adopter, they can pick up their animal at the store. But a potential adopter can’t just walk through the door, pick out a pet and leave.”
The store also serves as a foster facility for cats and kittens in conjunction with local rescue organizations. Cats awaiting forever homes are featured on the store’s website and social media accounts. Potential families get acquainted in the store’s community room, which opened in 2014.
During bi-monthly Round Up programs that raise funds for pet-related causes, customers donate change from their purchase, earmarked for selected recipients in need of fence builds, pet food pantry stores and emergency veterinary bill funds.
“We usually raise between $350 to $750 per month,” she said.
Pet food drives also are fundamental to a spirit of community. The store’s Valentine’s Day Share the Love adoption event and food drive collaborates with food manufacturers to allocate 20 percent of food sales to regional rescues and shelters.
“We also work with the American Heart Association and organize a pet parade for their walk every year,” Schwartz said. “Customers purchase ‘hearts’ for our Heart Walk team as part of the fundraiser.”
To aid homeless pets, All Pets Considered teams with local television and radio. A “Pet of the Week” radio segment endorses various rescue organizations by spotlighting an individual animal each week. Since 2009, All Pets Considered has partnered with a local CBS affiliate to sponsor “2 to the Rescue,” a weekday spot highlighting pets available for adoption, as well as a bi-annual, one-hour adoption broadcast.
Additionally, in an effort to elevate myriad pet issues, All Pets Considered launched its own television and radio commercials in 2015.
“These commercials are designed to emphasize issues that our customers may not connect with diet,” she said. “The ads have forged a stronger loyalty from existing customers.”
Educational seminars held regularly in the store’s community room include pet CPR certification, a workshop featuring pet essential oils and a Raw Night seminar presented by Answers Pet Food.
Social media, which keeps the community apprised of events and new products, includes Instagram and an active Facebook page with almost 6,000 followers. Email shares new product and educational information, and news of adoption events and fundraising activities.
“Our store was founded on the idea of serving the local animal welfare community through networking and encouraging the public to adopt from the shelter and rescue organizations,” Schwartz said.
Eighteen years ago, Tim Bryson, then the proud owner of two black Labrador puppies, was thrilled to discover All Pets Considered. The store met the nutritional and supply needs of his pets throughout the course of their lives.
Today, Bryson continues to patronize the establishment, shopping now for his adopted pets, Lila and Otis. Knowledgeable sales associates and a broad selection of premium foods and products keep him coming back, he said, adding that supporting a local business, rather than shopping at a big-box or grocery store, is another key consideration.
“It’s a locally owned store, plus they do their research regarding healthier, holistic food choices,” he said. “My dogs are very important to me, and I appreciate that support.”
When Lila suffered joint issues, Bryson opted to follow a holistic treatment route.
“The supplements recommended to me at All Pets Considered really cleared up Lila’s problems,” he said.
All Pets Considered At a Glance
Location: 2614 Battleground Ave., Greensboro, NC 27408
Management: Kristine Godfrey, owner; Alison Schwartz, manager
Employees: 15 full time, 15 part time
Years in business: 25
Square feet: 12,000
Products and services: Dog and cat food and treats, Biscuit Bar, supplements, grooming services, grooming products, toys, collars and leashes, boutique items, pet supplies, adoption days, cat fostering, community room, educational seminars