Homegrown brands boost PetEdge’s value proposition for its customers.
By Dennis Arp
For a company founded on local farm sales of antibiotics and serums, PetEdge has significantly expanded its formula for success. Long gone is the pickup truck that was the first sales tool for Loeb Katz, who in 1956 launched the New England Serum Co. with door-to-door delivery and service. Also gone are the serums of the company’s original name, which changed to PetEdge in 2002 to better reflect a broad portfolio of offerings.
Andy Katz with a very happy friend.
Now Andy Katz is president and CEO of the Beverly, Mass.-based company his father founded, and it takes two warehouses to hold the more than 12,000 products PetEdge supplies to pet-care professionals and independent retailers.
During the past eight years, PetEdge has become more than a nationwide wholesale distributor; the company is also now a manufacturer and marketer of its own homegrown brands. Katz said the company’s PetEdge Dealer Services Division is an effort to “combine efficiently the value and quality of a manufacturer with the convenience of a distributor.”
The knowledge gained from customers, such as groomers, retailers, veterinarians and kennel operators, as well as the company’s own experience operating a chain of pet-specialty stores, enabled the company to realize how difficult it was to find good products at prices that would differentiate customers from Petsmart and Walmart, Katz reported.
“Our goal is to give independents a way to make healthier margins than they can with national brands because we have fewer middle men involved and our logistics are efficient,” he said. “We buy direct from a number of factories overseas and domestically, then distribute through centers on the east and west coasts.”
PetEdge’s own Zack & Zoey apparel line for dogs
Launching internally developed brands was a bold step, considering the depth of the pet-product competition. Katz and his colleagues knew that if price became the only measure of success, they couldn’t provide an edge over superstores.
“If they want to sell a product for less than you do, they will,” Katz said.
Therefore, in addition to efficiencies, PetEdge focused on the quality and distinctiveness of products, as well as personal service. It’s an equation that hits home for retailers feeling the competitive pinch.
“It’s great to have a vendor that can provide the variety PetEdge can,” said Wendy Bartz, hardline buyer for Chuck & Don’s Pet Supply stores, with 15 locations in the metro Twin Cities area of Minnesota. “We kind of specialize in special orders for our clientele, so it’s important for us that our customers know that if they don’t see it on the shelf, chances are we can still get it for them. PetEdge makes that possible.”
The opportunity to offer PetEdge brands alongside nationally branded products is especially rewarding because PetEdge solicits input before developing new releases, Bartz noted.
|Other exclusive lines include Cruising Companion travel accessories (right) and Grriggles toys.|
“They are definitely willing to listen, whether you fill out a form or have a one-on-one conversation,” she said. “If we need to customize something like a display, they never say we have to do it a certain way, that we’re the ones who have to change. They listen to our needs and adjust accordingly.”
These days, PetEdge offers about 30 of its own brands, encompassing 3,000 products—from gourmet treats and leads to carriers and cages. There are even limited lines of fish, bird and small-animal offerings.
It all started with toys, introduced under the Zanies’ dog and cat banner and well received by customers and consumers. Other popular PetEdge brands include Master grooming tools and Zack & Zoey apparel for dogs.
“We’ve always been strong in the grooming market,” Katz said.
Looking for fleece pajamas with a candy-cane print? A recent scan of the company’s website showed Zack & Zoey Sweet Dreams PJs wholesaling for $3.99, with an MSRP of $12.99.
Katz is also proud of the line’s new animal-print apparel. In his office is a fashion-page tearsheet from a recent edition of the Boston Globe, in which a model is wearing a cheetah-print outfit next to a pooch in a similarly patterned Zack & Zoey ensemble.
The 30 or so members of the PetEdge product-development team pay close attention to trends in the human market, and subscribes to color services, Katz related. Some higher-volume customers fly in to tour the company’s Massachusetts warehouse, as well as have special plan-o-grams or endcaps prepared.
Of course, that doesn’t mean all of PetEdge’s plans or all of the 1,000-plus new products the company releases each year strike a sonorous chord with customers and consumers. High hopes rode with the release of a line of stylish pet beds, bureaus and toy chests; until it turned out the only real market demand was for functional furniture, such as pet stairs and ramps.
“We’re very analytical, which means we measure the sales and margin each product generates,” Katz said. “The ones that aren’t successful we discontinue, freeing up catalog space for new winners.”
Lessons from research and first-hand experience are applied swiftly, he added. Recently, a customer with a chain of stores wanted a clothing item customized to include the chain’s name.
“That same day a communication went out to our overseas office, and the next day we had a response on how the factory could accomplish what the customer wanted,” Katz said. “Within two months of that first call, the product had been designed, developed, approved and shipped to the customer.”
Such responsiveness is even more important during a slow economy, Katz noted. However, PetEdge hasn’t thrived for more than half a century by taking the short view or the easy way out.
“The better we can translate human trends to pet products, the more successful we will be,” Katz noted. “If we can continue to meet that challenge with a value message, we’ll continue to be around to meet our customers’ needs.” <HOME>
PetEdge Dealer Services
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