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Behind the Scenes: PetSafe

Posted: Sept. 5, 2012, 9:20 p.m. EDT


Branding Spree
From pet security to toys and treats, PetSafe continues to look into new categories for growth opportunities.

The PetSafe motto is “Safe Pets, Happy Owners.” But it could easily add “Growing Company” to its logo, because as good as its products are at keeping pets contained, it is just as adept at pushing its own corporate boundaries with new ideas and acquisitions.

PetSafe, an arm of Radio Systems Corp. of Knoxville, Tenn., is in the pet security business. It makes products that keep canines from dashing off into the street or neighborhood, such as wireless fences, in-ground fences and kennels, as well as other accessories that include electronic pet collars.

Petsafe headquarters
Part of Radio Systems Corp., PetSafe’s headquarters are also in Knoxville, Tenn.
The company built a reputation on those offerings, but it didn’t stop there. PetSafe recognized that while dogs are secure, they also need food and watering systems; remote training systems; toys and treats; heated beds; doors and more.

“But our core,” noted Jason Hart, director of marketing for PetSafe, “is on the electronic side. Invisible fences. Keeping dogs in with either static corrections, or with citronella spray or vibration.

“We’re always looking to go into new categories, for new growth opportunities,” he added.

The whole PetSafe phenomenon started about 20 years ago with its current CEO, Randy Boyd. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Tennessee and a master’s from Oklahoma, he fired up a truck and began a stint supplying and delivering heavy equipment around the Southeast, mostly having to do with cattle.

PetSafe's Drinkwell fountain
Petsafe's Drinkwell fountain.
An invisible fence system existed at the time. And when Boyd would make his rounds, he sometimes would be asked by store personnel if there was any way he could get his hands on that product.

Realizing an opportunity, Boyd did his research and found out that the patent on that original product was about to expire. So he huddled with an engineer to see if there was a cost-effective way to make a new product similar to that one.

“He knew that stores already wanted it,” Hart said. “He determined that he could re-engineer and redesign the product in an innovative way.

“One of the greatest things a sales guy wants to hear is, ‘I’ll buy it if you can get it for me,’” he added.
Today, PetSafe is one brand under the Radio Systems banner. Radio Systems is a global company with more than 600 associates and with offices in seven countries. Other brands contained under Radio Systems include SportDog, Invisible Fence and Premier Pet Products.

Under Boyd’s guidance, PetSafe has become a leader in the area of pet containment. The company’s products cover “the full range of distribution,” Hart said, from major box stores like Wal-Mart and Petco to independent pet shops.
 
“We’re always looking for new products,” Hart said. “One of our core ideas is innovation. We highly value the word ‘try.’ We’ll try new things, and we keep the stuff that works. We’re always entrepreneurial and we have a great innovation team that is always looking into new products. We have some that we will introduce in the fall. We’re always looking for opportunities and to maintain industry leadership.”

To that end, acquisitions are essential to the Radio Systems game plan. In recent months Radio Systems brought in two new additions in Premier Pet and Drinkwell. All of Premier Pet’s products are expected to move under the PetSafe brand, and that should be completed by October. That was done in order to direct marketing resources into one brand rather than splitting it into two; to satisfy the requests of large retailers who wanted to see fewer brands in their stores; and because the Premier brand wasn’t resonating quite as well with consumers, veterinarians and trainers.

Petsafe pet products
PetSafe has a very noticeable in-store presence when it comes to pet doors.
“Both companies allowed us to expand our product offering with differentiated products which provide market leadership in categories where we did not have a significant presence,” Hart said. “The companies also closely matched our mission and values in improving the relationship between pets and owners through innovative solutions.

“They grew the breadth of our line with innovative products, allowing us to reach more consumers with the PetSafe brand,” he continued. “Equally important, they helped add to our talented base of associates and the combined skills will help us grow the combined product line.”

PetSafe maintains close relationships with retailers, and reps often go on site to check in and consult as to the best ways to display and market the company’s pet products, Hart noted.

“We maintain a fairly good focus in terms of walk-ins,” he said. “We will go to, say, Petco to see how our products are being displayed, and how our competitors’ products are being displayed. I travel to trade shows to see what the competition is doing. Sometimes I’ll go out with the sales guys. We have sales meetings to talk about what we’re seeing, and to discuss product development efforts.”

Of course, PetSafe also relies on the Internet.

“We’ll look to see what people are saying about our products,” Hart said. “We also do a lot of surveys and market research.”

PetSafe Lickety Stik
Petsafe's new Lickety Stik for cats. All Photos Courtesy of PetSafe.
Susan Barry, a buyer for Moberly, Mo.-based Orscheln Farm & Home, estimated she has worked with PetSafe for 20 years, with her present company and a former one. She lauded PetSafe’s operation and how easy it is to work with the company.

“The reason I like them is that they have excellent quality,” she said. “Their customer service is second to none. If one of my consumer customers buys something and has a question, they have a consumer hotline that is outstanding.”

Barry added that their shipping services as well as in-store presence combine to make PetSafe a productive and efficient overall experience.

“Their shipping is excellent,” she said. “So many things come into play when you’re buying products for stores. The way they help display their products is fantastic. They do an excellent service for the customers, but the way they allow their products to be displayed really helps sell them.

“They also have a person on retainer, a dog trainer, who goes out and does tons of dog training right at the store level for us,” Barry continued. “So if we have a grand opening at stores she’ll encourage customers to bring their dogs. They go one step beyond what is expected and they really help draw you to the consumer.”

 

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