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Shop Talk: Doing the Right Thing

How to increase sales and profits in a retail environment while staying true to your customers
By Nadine Joli-Coeur and Biff Picone

What differentiates two similar retail businesses, one that is growing and another that is struggling? At a minimum, the growing business offers excellent customer service and product selection. That’s what it takes to survive these days.

What else can you do to drive sales and profitability? How do you beat the odds in this competitive market? In a word: trust. Your customers must trust you and what you sell. You earn this trust by what I call “doing the right thing.”

When we were selected by Pet Product News International as one of the best pet suppliers, we were ecstatic as well as being very grateful to our customers. Because I talk to customers at our stores everyday, I went to them when I started thinking about a topic for this article. I asked them to tell me why they shop with us. Many answered, “products, service and selection.” However, I noticed they also repeated something else: “We trust you.” In a world with recalls and sub-par products, customers want to shop at businesses they trust and buy from people who “do the right thing.”

Staying True to Your Mission Statement

One of our core beliefs is that our product selection has to stay true to our mission statement.

Our mission is to put customers first, providing products and services that we believe in. Therefore, all our treats and foods are made in America. We make every effort to source all our supplies from the USA as well, although we are not yet at 100 percent for our toys and accessories. We feel it is important to support the U.S. manufacturing industry and provide high-quality products.

There are so many products to choose from, it is frequently difficult to decide which ones to carry. We extensively research our products, asking a lot of questions on product sourcing and trials. We also look at the manufacturing and vendor management teams and their philosophies. Our trust in our vendors and their business practices is vital. If they don’t meet our standards, they don’t get our business.

Product selection also takes discipline. It is easy to be swayed by product specials, but if you do not believe in the product, it will likely gather dust on the shelf.

Attract Great Employees

True to Their Mission

“Not only do you get the best foods at Natural Pawz, but you also get actual education. When I walked in I had read a few things on the Internet about recalls, yet little did I know the food I was about to change to was also on the recalls under a different name. I stopped at NP and they taught me so much and gave me free samples. I looked further into [which] dog and cat food to feed my pets and I couldn't find anything against what they taught me, but everything for it! -- bella2009*

** Testimonial sourced from

Attracting and retaining good employees is also critical. We all know employee costs are a large piece of our business, so the challenge is to attract and keep good employees at salaries we can afford. We recognize that people want to work for businesses they believe in and trust; therefore, we are committed to being open and honest with our employees. We also challenge them to learn (and keep learning) and to assume responsibility. In addition, we try to be flexible on hours, offer increased store discounts and create other incentive programs. By taking into account what (in addition to salary) is important to our staff, we have developed long-term relationships with our employees. We care about them and they know it.  

Going Green Makes Business Sense

While customers value green businesses and green products, it is debatable whether they will pay more for them. Nevertheless, we still feel that going green makes good business sense. Most of our rubber pet toys are made from recycled materials and are therefore “green.” We don’t carry latex. We recycle boxes and use green, natural products in our grooming department and store. In addition, reducing the cardboard we put out in the regular trash reduces the shopping center’s expenses and will ultimately affect our future bottom line. 

“Doing the right thing” is a philosophy that we have adopted in our business. It can be a challenge but rewards us in customer and employee loyalty, as well as increased growth and profitability. <HOME>

Nadine Joli-Coeur and Biff Picone are the owners of Natural Pawz, which has four locations in Texas. They were a Retailer of the Year Runner Up for 2008-2009.

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Shop Talk: Doing the Right Thing

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Reader Comments
sure sounds like the direction to be going in-my customers tell me that they trust me and know that I love dogs and attitude towards their pets is the key.
judy, salisbury, NC
Posted: 9/9/2009 4:31:35 AM
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