With the economic outlook in this country still gloomy, it is exciting to see continued year-over-year growth in the pet industry. Due to the popularity of pet/dog products, some corporate retail heavy hitters are trying to "cash in" on our bread and butter. Retail giants like Target, Walmart and even TJ Maxx/Marshalls are expanding their pet departments. In the past, much of the merchandise offered at these store chains was very basic and run-of-the mill—products that you and I wouldn't ever consider carrying in our pet boutiques.
However, that is all changing. I'm starting to see more and more upscale boutique-type product lines on the shelves of these national retail giants. The other day I was at TJMaxx and I saw a dozen products from vendors who claimed they only sold to independents. That, alone, is troubling but even more disconcerting is that the products are being offered at a retail price that is similar to or even LOWER than the wholesale price I am paying.
As a result, I have made the decision to discontinue carrying these items, even if they are some of my more popular lines. I don't know about you, but I cannot compete with these retail giants on price. I know we can outdo these chains on customer service, which helps with the retention of customers. But in the price-conscious environment we live in, lower prices seem to win out on a more frequent basis.
So what do we, the mom and pops of the world, do? We need to get proactive with our vendors. When we're ordering, ask the vendor if their products are sold to any of these national chains. Decide if you are still going to stock their products, and then those that do sell to nationals, make sure you are protected geographically.
Also we need to continue to search for NEW products, either by pouring over industry publications or by attending industry trade shows. There are many great start-up companies that are just dying to get into the market and they usually start with the boutique route first. Hopefully, these newly discovered lines won't be picked up for a good long time by the retail bigwigs.
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