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Retailer of the Year 2012-2013: Outstanding Marketing and Merchandising Award

Posted: Nov. 14, 2012, 6:30 p.m. EDT

Cutter’s Mill Makes Its Mark
The five-store chain’s mission to provide quality-of-life products and services for pets and their owners is reflected in its innovative approach to marketing and merchandising.
By Wendy Bedwell-Wilson

Cutter’s Mill employees know how to showcase and sell pet products. They’re so good, in fact, that the five-location franchise was awarded Pet Product News International’s 2012-2013 Retailer of the Year for Outstanding Marketing and Merchandising Award.

Retailer of the YearThe pristine, easy-to-navigate pet stores, all located in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, are carefully and creatively stocked with full lines of products for dogs, cats, birds and small animals (and gift items for humans, too), and they offer on-site adoptions and delivery services.

However, Cutter’s Mill’s underlying vision is to “provide the highest quality of life for pets in a progressive and innovative retail environment,” noted Susan Parker, executive vice president and chief operating officer for the organization. And its mission is to “exceed shoppers’ highest standards and expectations through customer satisfaction and commitment to shared values.”

Cutter's Mill
Behind the basic storefront, every Cutter’s Mill offers an array of well-thought-out, elegant-looking product displays, from freezers to shelves to kiosks—and everything in between. Photos courtesy of Cutter’s Mill
It’s something which they’ve certainly done, and more.

The centerpiece of Cutter’s Mill’s marketing program is its Cutter’s Mill …naturally!, Parker said.

“With five stores and a club membership list of nearly 60,000 customer names, the …naturally! Club drives our marketing program,” she said. “Being a club member affords customers the opportunity to take advantage of in-store specials, the receipt of the Cutter’s Mail newsletter and pet birthday cards, and weekly email blasts.”

The in-store specials, which rotate through many of the most popular products, remain on sale for two entire months rather than weekly to give customers plenty of time to shop the store’s members-only discounts, Parker said.

Club members also receive the store’s quarterly newsletter in their mailboxes. The 12- to 16-page flier provides customers with informational articles, tips on new products, promotional offers, coupons and advance notice of in-store events, Parker reported.

QR code at Cutter's Mill
Info-seeking customers can access a store’s QR Response program for instant product info.
“The newsletter is also mailed to the Whole Foods customer database in our trading area, our Circle of Friends network, local vets, trainers, pet sitters, groomers and new customers,” she added.

The most successful arm of the company’s marketing program, however, is its weekly email blast.

“The ability to drive sales through our email blast program has proven extraordinary,” Parker said. “We were able to craft a coupon offer, drop it at 9:20 p.m. the night prior to the ‘sale,’ and generate the highest revenue day in the company’s history the very next day.”

Parker and her team distribute email blasts to her club members weekly, typically on Thursday nights, that brief them on the weekend’s promotional events and product announcements.

“They also contain a column written by a veterinarian,” she added.

Cutter’s Mill uses social networking, too, to notify customers about pet food recalls and other urgent matters, Parker said.

A Welcoming Touch
For retailers looking for an easy way to add that personal touch to their pet stores, here’s an idea: Put them on display.

Susan Parker, executive vice president and chief operations officer for Cutter’s Mill, with stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said she and her employees create a welcoming atmosphere in their stores by taking pictures of customers’ pets and uploading them to a slideshow that appears on their big-screen LCD monitor.

“When we’re not displaying nutritional facts or educational information on the TV, it has a screensaver that will show pictures of the many pets who have been in our store,” Parker said. “This allows our customers to feel like they are part of our family, and it creates a small-town, everybody-knows-everybody atmosphere in our store.”—WBW

“With the recent recalls of multiple brands of pet food, we used our Facebook page to make sure we got the word out to our customers, sharing information from manufacturers and vendors so customers could get as much information as we had available,” she said. “We were able to provide updates quickly, which allowed many affected customers to get their recalled food back to our stores and get credit for it.”

Customers Queued to Learn
In addition to implementing a highly successful external marketing plan, Cutter’s Mill has also created what Parker calls Cutter’s Mill Solution Center’s QR, or Quick Response, Program. When shoppers scan one of Cutter’s Mill’s QR codes with their smartphones or one of the in-house iPads available for customers to use, they instantly learn myriad details about the product.

“Our QR codes can scan 7,000 characters,” she said of the in-store marketing strategy. “This means that selected items in the store can be scanned for detailed information to help both staff and customers.”

For instance, Parker said, with a simple scan of the QR code, pet owners can learn why gluten-free foods make sense for some pets, how omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial to dogs’ health, and what nutrients are included in certain pet food brands and why.

“And, of course, the more our staff learns through this user friendly resource, the more they can share with our customers as well as providing ongoing support as new questions arise,” she added.

Cutter's Mill pet food display
Cutter’s Mill’s underlying vision is to “provide the highest quality of life for pets in a progressive and innovative retail environment.”
The in-store Solution Center—which features a big-screen LED monitor—also offers other important resources for customers, Parker said, including pet-related service providers, such as local veterinarians, groomers and dog walkers; answers to the 15 most common pet-related questions; and a quick-and-easy method to place special orders.

“Staff can obtain virtually anything pet parents might need, allowing customers to view their options on a big screen before deciding,” Parker said. “With this new QR program, Cutter’s Mill is creating a new paradigm for customer care, helping owners provide their pets with the happy, healthy lives they deserve.”

It fits in perfectly with its vision and mission.

Round Up for Pet Rescue
To raise funds for pet-related community groups, such as the Pennsylvania SPCA, Cutter’s Mill implemented a “Round Up” program in March 2010 with which customers can “round up” their purchase’s total to the nearest dollar and donate the overage to a nonprofit.

At a Glance
The Petropolitan

Location: 5 stores; Chalfont and Paoli, Pa.; and Cherry Hill, Princeton and Mt. Laurel, N.J.

Owners: Barry Lyngard, CEO; Susan Parker, exec. VP and COO

Size: Ranging from 5,600 to 8,500 sq. ft., with 7,500 sq. ft. being average store size

Employees: 18 full time, 25 part time

Years in Business: 7

Products and Services Offered: Products include avian, boutique, cat, dog, small mammal and wild bird; services include adoption days and delivery.

“For example, if a purchase is $37.68, the customer may choose to ‘round up’ to $38, giving 32 cents to the PSPCA,” Parker said. “More than 80 percent of our customers do so, and now we don’t even have to ask. They just say, ‘Round me up’ when making their purchase.”

To date, Cutter’s Mill and its customers have raised $165,000, which was used to hire a humane animal law enforcement officer who has the responsibility and authority to make arrests for animal abuse and investigate allegations of cruelty or neglect, Parker said.

“Additional funds have also allowed the PSPCA to purchase much-needed medical supplies in order to perform emergency surgeries and spay and neuter procedures,” she added.

Merchandising and More
With its strong external marketing campaign, an easy-to-use in-store solutions and info center, and a gold mine of funds from eager and willing donors, Cutter’s Mill successfully promotes the benefits of pets as well as ways to best care for customers’ four-legged pals.

It’s no wonder the franchise has thrived—and been acknowledged as one of the best pet product retailers out there. 


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Retailer of the Year 2012-2013: Outstanding Marketing and Merchandising Award

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