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25 to Watch in 2009

From presidents to governors to American legends named for pre-packs of adult beverages, here’s Pet Product News International’s annual list of 25 individuals apt to leave their marks, for better or worse, on the pet industry in the coming year.

Susie Atherton

Susie Atherton: Besides running Canine Creek Dog Wash & Boutique in Tehachapi, Calif., Atherton serves as director of her local chamber of commerce, helped build a dog park in her area and oversees Pet Industry Retailers, a networking and retail support group. Now that the dog park is up and running, we assume she’ll be looking for new projects with all her free time.

Paul Berry: After joining Best Friends Animal Society in 2001 as chief information officer, Berry became CEO of the group in 2005 and responsible for its day-to-day operations and strategic planning. Originally focused on low-cost spay and neuters, and operating a no-kill sanctuary in Utah, the group says it now needs some “bold, new initiatives” to carry out its goal of “no more homeless pets.” Those initiatives apparently include the Puppy-Store-Free LA campaign, in which it works with animal-rights group Last Chance for Animals to protest high-profile pet stores in Los Angeles until they close or stop selling puppies. Best Friends, a non-profit organization that reported revenues of $36 million and assets of $28 million for 2007, sees the program as a model for the nation.

Jim Bradley: As CEO of  Bradley Calwell Inc. of Hazelton, Pa., Bradley bolstered his company’s presence in the pet industry and the Midwest through the acquisition of Loveland Pet Products of Mason, Ohio. With the deal, Bradley can now deliver pet products, lawn and garden products, tack and feed products, wild bird products and farm supply products to retailers in more than half (26 states) of the United States. As for future expansion: manifest destiny?

Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA

Ron DeHaven, DVM, MBA: After more than 20 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Dr. DeHaven succeeded Bruce Little, DVM, as executive vice president of the American Veterinary Medical Association in August 2007. Recently named CEO of the professional organization, DeHaven is tasked with leading the generally conservative group into the 21st century, addressing issues such as animal welfare and the profession’s changing demographics. Among issues he’s spoken out on recently: the group’s change in policy to call for the removal of tail-docking and ear-cropping from breed standards and a persistent gender gap in veterinarian compensation.

Jim Dougherty: Petsmart’s founder created his newest concept: PetSense Factory Direct Stores in 2005. It has grown to at least 23 locations with an online store by the end of 2008—and appears to be ramping up for more accelerated growth. His strategy: discount prices to rural communities (generally too small to attract the national pet-specialty chains).

Darrell Douglas' Cabela's

Darrell Douglas: As product manager for the dog-product category at outdoor outfitter Cabela’s, Douglas will be overseeing the company’s new 56-page dog-product catalog. Cabela’s operates at least 29 destination retail centers in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to its mail-order business. That provides it a great deal of opportunity to expand its dog offerings more and possibly enter some additional pet categories.

Mike Duke: Most recently president of Wal-Mart International, Duke succeeds Lee Scott as president and CEO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., effective Feb. 1. Enough said.

Mike Edwards: Formerly the CEO and president of 60-store Lucy Activewear, Edwards joined Solano Beach, Calif.-based Muttropolis as its new chairperson. He also invested, along with some others, in the five-boutique chain, which plans to use the capital to shore up operations at existing stores before resuming growth plans. He is also a trustee for the International Council of Shopping Centers, which designated Muttropolis as one of the five hottest retail concepts of 2006.

Laura Leah English:  English is CEO of Pet Planet Ltd. in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, which ranked No. 64 (with revenues of about $5.3 million) on Canadian business magazine Profit’s list of 100 top-women entrepreneurs in Canada. Joan Bauer is president of the business. Also ranked: Margaret Skinner, chairperson, president and CEO of West Central Pelleting Ltd., a Wilkie, Saskatchewan-based producer of livestock feed pellets, No. 33 with $10.2 million in revenues and Sabine Schleese, managing director of Schleese Saddlery Service Ltd., a manufacturer of saddles and tack in Holland Landing, Ontario, No. 81 with about $4 million in revenues.

John Heil: The co-chief operating officer of Spectrum Brands, and president of its global pet-supplies business, in November received a $50,000 raise to $500,000 in annual salary. Spectrum also established a $337,500 long-term incentive for Heil, in addition to existing bonus plans. The additional bonus is payable in two installments and is designed to keep him with the company until at least Dec. 15, 2009, when the second installment is due. The bonus appears to be designed to keep Heil (and other key executives who received similar deals) at the helm of the company as it navigates a possible delisting from the New York Stock Exchange (it has received separate delisting notices for its market capitalization and its stock price) and about $2.6 billion in long-term debt. The good news for Heil: overall pet sales were up more than 5 five percent to about $600 million for fiscal 2008 and Spectrum’s revenues were up 4.8 percent to about $2.7 billion for the year.

David Herman: A lawyer who managed Borders Books and Music’s rollout in Australia, Singapore and New Zealand, Herman more recently became managing director of Pets at Home Australia, the down-under branch of the 225-store U.K. chain. To date, the unit operates three pet complexes (animal hospital and grooming salons as well as retail) and is poised for a national rollout, Australia’s Herald Sun reports.

Brad Kriser: With at least five Kriser’s pet-food stores open in the Chicago area, Kriser plans to open 265 stores nationwide within the next five years, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. One of his investors is former Petsmart executive Mark Hansen, who introduced him to market-research firm Leo J. Shapiro and Associates. In exchange for a minor equity position with Kriser’s, the research group is trading $200,000 worth of research focusing on customers and competitors designed to guide Kriser’s growth and offerings. One research-backed change saw Kriser’s sell  450 collars and leads in six weeks (July 1 to Aug. 15), an amount equal to its first six months of sales, the newspaper reported.

Nicholas LaRosa

Nicholas LaRosa: PetsUnited LLC of Hazelton, Pa., tapped chief merchandising officer LaRosa to head its fastest-growing business: its AllPets business-to-business division, which includes sister-site LaRosa oversees strategic direction of the division.

Edmund Mowka: The former owner of Aquarium Systems Inc. (until he sold it to what is now Spectrum Brands), Mowka returned to the pet industry in 2008 by buying the Kordon, Oasis and Aquavet operations of Novalek Inc. and forming Kordon LLC. He is looking forward to competing against his former company.

Barack Obama: The new president faces a daunting challenge with an imploding global economy, but his moves on the regulatory front (particularly on consumer-protection and environmental issues) may have a greater impact on the pet industry. His approach will certainly contrast that of his predecessor. Plus, we all want to find out which type of dog he selects for his family.

Patricia Olson, DVM: President and CEO of Morris Animal Health, Dr. Olson and the animal-health research organization will oversee Hill’s Pet Nutrition’s gift of feline genetic research (some 3 million strands of genetic data) to the international research community. Although the foundation works with all species, Olson will be focusing a great deal of time of cats, through programs such as the Happy Healthy Cat Campaign, launched in November with Hill’s, and the broad-based Catalyst Council that seeks to bolster veterinary care and respect for cats.

Dr. Cornelius Patt: Co-founder and CEO of Munich-based Zooplus AG, a fast-growing European online pet-supplies retailer, Patt will be overseeing the group’s expansion into additional international markets. Zooplus currently operates specific websites for  Germany/Austria, the United Kingdom, France, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Poland, and services other countries through a general site. Founded in 1999, the company saw sales grow from 2.4 million Euro (about $3.2 million) in 2000 to 55.4 million Euro (about $74 million) in 2007. Through the first nine months of 2008, Zooplus saw sales up 50 percent to 58.9 million Euro (about $78.6 million), despite declining European consumer confidence.

Matt Pedersen: A Chicago-based private marine hobbyist is the co-founder of the Marine Ornamental Fish and Invertebrate Breeders Association. The Internet-based group, which has grown to more than 1,000 members,  is attempting to bring together private and commercial aquarists, aquaculture businesses and researchers from around the world to increase the production of captive-bred marine fish and invertebrates.
Biff Picone: Picone and wife and business partner Nadine Joli-Coeur represent any number of pet retailers that are riding the current natural wave. They have opened Natural Pawz stores in three locations in Texas in three years and are talking about a fourth location in the near future.

Diann Scaffidi: Along with husband Steve, Scaffidi founded Pet Supply Closeouts Inc. in 1992 after operating pet stores in Massachusetts since 1976. At that time, the country was coming out of its first recession and pet stores in New England were facing discount pet-superstore competition for the first time. As a specialist in pet-product closeouts and excess inventory, she and the company are apt to be very busy until the economy fully recovers.

Bob Scharf: President and CEO of Sergeant’s Pet Care Products Inc. in Omaha, Neb., he seems to have the means to consolidate smaller companies into his, while former consolidator’s Central Garden & Pet and Spectrum Brands digest both past acquisitions and the stock market collapse. In 2008, Sergeant’s acquired the consumer-brands division of Virbac (including Mardel, Zema and Petrodex) and Interpet’s Aquarium Products business, which will allow the company to market separate aquarium lines to specialty and mass.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: As governor of the United State’s most populous state, the “Govern-ator” is battling the U.S.’s largest state budget shortfall. The impact on the pet industry, thus far, includes his veto of a bill that would have mandated cats and dogs be secured when transported by car (he vetoed it and many other bills solely to teach legislature a lesson for not passing a budget on time) and his proposal to tax veterinary services as part of a broader sales-tax hike. Also, he recently reportedly responded to a ferret owner’s plea for ferret legalization by noting that “many animals just aren’t meant to be kept as pets” and that he would not legalize ferrets until an environmental impact report was concluded (and possible additional studies showing they could be “good, safe pets.”)

Joe Sixpack: A certain lipsticked pit bull from Alaska emphasized the importance of the working class in the presidential election. Of course, she also mistook herself as a “Joe Sixpack.” Some in the pet industry will better understand Joe Sixpack and his importance to the consumer packaged-goods market. More importantly, the industry will be watching carefully, hoping the economy doesn’t change his name to Joe Fortyounce.

Pamela Stegeman

Pamela Stegeman: She is the first person to fill the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council’s newly created staff position of president (formerly an elected position, now called chairperson) and an integral part of the trade group’s long-term succession plan. Stegeman will focus largely on administrative, education and membership matters, with Marshall Meyers, PIJAC’s CEO and general counsel, focusing on legislative issues, including pro-active programs geared toward staving off restrictive regulations and laws.

Dave Strack: Earlier this year, Strack, who worked for That Fish Place as a teenager, opened in March 2008 the Java Reef, a full-line coffee shop adjacent to his Asheville Aquarium specialty store in North Carolina. The idea is to brew up business for the aquarium business as people enjoy display tanks with their java. Strack saw revenues climb 10 percent (4 percent if excluding coffee sales) for the first half of the year. Future plans include opening satellite Java Reefs (although about 70 percent of visitors said they had traveled more than 20 miles to visit a good fish store, it’s doubtful that many would travel that far for a cup of coffee), expanding his e-commerce sales and his maintenance business, and marketing a point-of-sales system to other aquarium stores. <HOME>

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25 to Watch in 2009

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I know David Strack and the Asheville Aquarium/Java Reef first hand. I have been going to the store for my aquarium needs since it opened. The coffee shop is great, too as I can enjoy my favorite specialty drink while I shop for my fish. Good people, good coffee, good fishing!!
Barbara, clyde, NC
Posted: 11/16/2009 5:02:38 PM
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