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Pet Industry Advisory Retail Panel

Posted: March 10, 2011, 1:45 p.m., EDT

As mentioned in my last blog, I was fortunate to be invited to attend the 2nd annual Pet Industry Transformation Conference held in Las Vegas in mid February. It featured a host of inspiring speakers and one very informative panel. The panel consisted of five successful retailers who discussed "Revolutionizing Retail: New Strategies to Capture Pet Parent Dollars.”

The panelists were:
Al Bell, CEO of Moochie and Co.
Chip Sammons, owner of Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore.
Connie Packard Kamedulski, owner of Animal Fair Pet Shop in Ridgefield, Conn.
Teresa Miller, owner of Treats Unleashed in St. Louis
The discussion was moderated by Barry Berman, founder of NexPet, a co-op for independent pet retailers.

What has been your biggest challenge in growing your business?

Chip: The Internet has caused so much confusion. What is "the truth?” He feels there is a lot of misinformation being passed around in terms of what works and doesn’t?

Al: Financing growth is his biggest challenge. Credit markets are still difficult and trying to grow organically is tough. He believes private label is a great way to grow profits in his 10-store chain.

Connie:  Price competition and the perception that independents are higher than big boxes. Connie’s store isn’t more expensive on most items. She recently added a rewards program and that has helped tremendously.

Theresa: The economy. Treats Unleashed is small enough with only five stores to be nimble and quickly respond to a changing market. The down economy gave her a chance to re-evaluate and re-prioritize. So she broadened their product offerings and doubled sales. Another huge challenge is the brand migration from independent to big box.

Barry: On the aquarium side, those who are succeeding are those who are aggressively promoting tanks (sometimes at cost); statistics show that within 10 or 20 miles of a good aquarium store, the decline in aquatics isn’t happening.

What are your greatest challenges for the next three years?

Chip: Discerning accurate information. Chip goes to visit the pet food plants in person because he wants to know what is real and what isn’t. The challenge is finding out if they are telling the truth or not.

Al: Competition from the Big Box and mass; trying to differentiate on things other than price.

Connie: Consolidation and fewer items for the consumer; blurring of lines between holistic, natural, etc. Connie’s customers want better products, not cheaper products. There is too much "me too.” and not enough innovation.

Theresa: Her clients are looking for unique products, as they are early adopters.

What can manufacturers or distributors do better or different?

Chip: He doesn’t want copycat products; wants good, honest, unique products.

Al: He has been disappointed by a couple of key vendors that didn’t communicate their out of stocks. Communication is critical.

Connie: She would like to see more training of the reps; more point-of-sale material and more marketing support. She cited Oxbow Hay as a good example of a company doing it right. She also appreciates it when companies offer employee-feeding programs for the foods they sell; make plenty of samples available.

Theresa: She needs more products made in the USA. She is really on a hunt for more U.S.-made products.

What are some non-traditional or innovative resources you can give our audience?

• Join NexPet
• Partner with rescue organizations
• Every weekend host adoptable dog or cat adoptions
• Offer a rewards program
• Network at conferences like Pet Industry Advisory

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Pet Industry Advisory Retail Panel

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