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Bentley's Pet Stuff Receives Retailer of the Year Award at SuperZoo


Pet Product News editor-in-chief Ellyce Rothrock (far right) recognizes the Bentley's Pet Stuff team with its Retailer of the Year Award during SuperZoo.

During SuperZoo, on Aug. 3, just before the New Product Showcase winners were announced, Pet Product News made a winning announcement of its own.

Giovanni and Lisa Senafe, co-owners of Chicago-based Bentley’s Pet Stuff, joined Ellyce Rothrock, PPN’s editor-in-chief, on stage to receive the Retailer of the Year 2016-2017 Award.

Why did Bentley’s win? Their story tells it all.

When you build your own business, it’s easy to be blind to the problems that are apparent to an outsider. What’s even harder is listening to and acting on advice from an outsider. But the Senafes took a leap of faith and applied to be on Marcus Lemonis’ reality TV show “The Profit”—and were accepted.

Lemonis, chairman and CEO of the multibillion-dollar corporation Camping World, dug right in, pulled no punches and helped set Bentley’s on the road toward better, faster growth. As the star of “The Profit,” Lemonis seeks struggling businesses in need of cash and turns them around in exchange for a piece of the business and a percentage of the profits.


The Backstory

Lisa envisioned sharing her passion for pet nutrition. In 2007, plans were underway to make her dream reality with the opening of a pet supply store that focused on natural, healthful food and treats.

Bentley’s Corner Barkery, as it was first known, launched in early 2008 in Arlington Heights, Ill. In 2011, the 1,000-square-foot store expanded into an adjacent space, adding 600 square feet. By October 2014, Bentley’s had grown to four stores.

The Senafes set their sights on becoming “the” pet supply business across Chicagoland. The organization had seven stores and an eighth under construction in the Chicago area, but the Senafes were struggling. Bentley’s had a great concept, but aggressive expansion was outpacing the framework of the business.

“We’d put the priority on growth, revenue wise and store number wise; we would focus on our infrastructure later,” said Giovanni. “I used a yellow legal pad to track store operations—the infrastructure we needed was not there.”

Inventory management also was an issue—each store functioned as its own over-crowded mini warehouse.

“Our customers just saw a great-looking store staffed with wonderful, passionate people,” Giovanni said. “They didn’t know we were a wreck on the back end; downstairs it was like a bomb went off.”

After downsizing their household seven times in as many years in order to keep themselves and their vision afloat, and in spite of Bentley’s growth, the Senafes felt they still were at square one.

It was at this point that Lemonis stepped into their lives.

“The Profit” episode featuring Bentley’s aired in fall 2015, and Lemonis committed his business acumen, along with $1.7 million in two separate checks, to the Senafes’ vision. His expertise, inspiration and financial support coupled with the Senafe’s vision, dedication and passion brought the Bentley’s dreams within reach.


The Reinvention

By updating company infrastructure, software and POS systems, hiring management personnel to handle day-to-day operations—including a CFO and a controller—the operation is on the fast track. Renovations of new stores create a more uniform design, beginning with the distinctive green paw print on the entrance canopy. A retail design firm brought consistency, a greater shopping experience and more efficient use of space, which has allowed for expanded product offerings at broader price points—and increased sales. Tighter inventory control means categories are stocked properly and remerchandised systematically, and excess product is eliminated.

“Retail store design is a science,” Giovanni said. “We increased our products by 30 or 40 percent in the same square footage.”

By January 2016, Bentley's had a 60,000-square-foot warehouse. With 70 percent of product distributed from this centralized source, the company now quickly tracks and replenishes stores’ inventories.

Bentley’s now has 32 stores in four states.

The future is wide open for Bentley’s Pet Stuff, according to Giovanni, but there is no agenda or magic number of stores to acquire.

“It’s about growing the right way,” he said. “If it fits our culture and will add value, we are open.”

For more information about Bentley's Pet Stuff and its reinvention, check out the full story here at petproductnews.com.

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