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What 2 Brick-and-Mortar Pet Retailers Learned After Launching Online Stores


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Image by Preis_King from Pixabay

Change can be hard, especially when it shifts the fundamental way in which you do business. Brick-and-mortars are designed to bring people through the doors where pet owners (and often their four-legged friends) can touch, see and smell the vast variety of goods. Independents are also known for having that “personal touch.” Given these traits, it’s no wonder why some pet retailers may be hesitant to embrace an e-commerce platform.

However, Cindra Conison, owner of The Quirky Pet in Montpelier, Vt., and Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face Inc. in Redlands, Calif., decided to take the plunge.

“The push for us was that there are people all over the country in our Facebook group that wanted to purchase from us and so it was an obvious and natural progression,” said Grow, who launched Furry Face’s online store about five years ago.

The Quirky Pet’s online store went live in May, coincidentally during the COVID-19 pandemic, Conison said. It had been a long-time in the making.

“In our case, our online annex was evolutionary and took well over a year,” Conison said. “It was a three-step process. Step 1: Accept that we were joining a world that is acting directly counter to the interests of our store and other indies. Step 2: Decide what a unique online presentation that dovetails with the store would be. Step 3: Design it and have it coded.”

So, why were they hesitant to dive into the e-comm in the first place? The two retailers weigh in.

PPN: Why were you hesitant to use e-commerce in the past?

Grow: It’s difficult to be a brick-and-mortar and compete with other online pricing by people with little-to-no overhead. It also takes quite a bit of additional attention and management if it picks up considerably.

Conison: When we opened, we had two core values: No. 1 We are an actual brick-and-mortar indie pet shop in contrast to the big-box stores and the soulless internet e-commerce world. No. 2 We would only sell American-made products. We still do and always will. Our online presence has the header “The Quirky Pet Online Dog Chew Annex.” We’ve tried hard to integrate it into the actual shop.

PPN: What have you learned since adding the option?

Grow: It needs regular attention and constant updating with product pics and descriptions, additions and deletions, price changes, etc.

Conison: We now understand that we know commercial retail really well from years of experience. The internet is a whole new world for us. Getting eyeballs to the site is a slow learning process.

PPN: What feedback have you received from customers?

Grow: We are fortunate to have a good and loyal following.

Conison: The online annex is a very unique experience. People who visit love the layout and design. The box with the purchase includes a few surprises for both purchaser and their canine friend. People like that. The “Reliving Quirkymania!” mockumentary was our work. People love the epic tale of The Quirkies. It is part of our unique branding.

PPN: What do you hope for in the future?

Grow: We would like to do an overhaul of the entire site, add additional options and make it easier to connect the business app with the direct-to-online purchasing.

Conison: We have modest expectations, and we are building from a point of realism. We view the online annex as an evolving project, just like the shop. I look at my shelves and see so many products that weren’t present when I opened. The inventory and the display of inventory should always be determined by customer demand. The online annex is no different. I am one month in and moving new items to categories that are generating demand. As I get smarter over time with my shop, I am sure that the annex will evolve as well and become more attuned to its customer base. I am sure of only one thing: all products will be made and sourced in the United States as they are in my shop in Montpellier. Some core values will never change.

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