Cyndi Wells, owner of Pet Pangaea in Los Alamos, N.M., explains why her brick-and-mortar store is working on developing a client service robot.
Pet Product News: What are the top-selling products in your store right now?
Cyndi Wells: Our clients are always interested in healthy products for their pets. We hunt for products that are healthy and will intrigue our clients. We also make an effort to find products that are made in the USA, would work well for our senior or sensitive pet friends, and/or have a social purpose as well.
For dog treats and bones right now, Roam Pet Treats’ Ossy Chews and The Boss-Trich Cape Ostrich Bones have been popular.
An increasing number of clients have expressed interest in phytocannabinoid rich (PCR) products. Our town is the home of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and our clientele is quite scientific. The Treatibles brand uses third-party testing, and results of testing are available online; our clients’ response to both the Treatibles chews and dropper bottles has been overwhelmingly positive.
Some of our best-selling products in certain categories have stayed in that position for a long time. Mrs. Pastures’ horse cookies, for example, will always be popular with our horse friends. They even smell yummy to me!
Silverfoot bear bells are always popular this time of year for us. The popularity of bear bells will surely differ, based on location! We have bears in and around town, and people enjoy hiking on our great network of trails. However, nobody wants to startle a bear.
PPN: What are your favorite products right now?
Wells: I appreciate that the Treatibles brand has great training materials for employees, including a detailed webinar. Employee training is critical to the success of any brand in the store, and I believe that the manufacturers who invest in making it easy for stores to train employees are making a smart investment.
West Paw has always been a popular brand for us, and I love that they are a certified B Corp. Their Rowdies line of durable plush toys is a great option for clients who want a plush toy with a bit of toughness.
From the Field’s organic catnip and toys have also always been a hit with our cat friends. Shelby the Refillable Hemp Mouse makes it easy for cat parents to freshen up the catnip and get great use from a toy.
PPN: What industry trends have you been keeping your eye on most closely?
Wells: We have watched the interest in natural and organic foods for pets grow over many years and do our best to offer trustworthy brands with nutritious foods. It will be interesting to see where the food options will evolve next. Increased consumer use of online and auto-shipment services in the pet industry is a trend that we have been watching closely for opportunities.
PPN: What business challenge are you currently in the process of tackling?
Wells: Pet Pangaea’s biggest challenge has been in managing growth. Not all growth is good! We maintain high standards of client service and, at times, have purposefully limited growth to ensure that our staff, processes, infrastructure and controls are ready for the increased business. We live in an area with a relatively small labor pool. Even when we offer a salary well above national average and benefits that include a 401(k) with employer matching and health insurance, staffing is challenging. With challenges, we always look for opportunities to innovate. Right now, we are working on a client service robot project and developing the future of retail. Given our tech savvy and scientifically minded town, we think our robot will prove more popular than the humans when it comes to some clients wanting assistance!
Consumers’ increasing use of online options and auto-shipment services also represents a challenge to a brick-and-mortar store like Pet Pangaea. We tackle that challenge by doing our best to provide expert advice and a meaningful social connection to our clients. Employee education is taken seriously; all store floor staff go through a rigorous three-month-long training process before hitting the store floor. In the past year, we also started using Pointy as a quick, easy means of getting our products online and available in online searches. We are also transitioning to a new point-of-sale system that will allow us to take online orders for those who want the convenience factor of ordering off a website in their jammies in the wee hours. Our goal is same-day delivery.
PPN: What business goal are you hoping to achieve this year?
Wells: This year will be an exciting period in Pet Pangaea’s history, and the goal is a big one! We have an opportunity to buy land to build a new building. This new building will allow us to add services, such as self-wash grooming stations, and strengthen our role in the adoption process by providing dedicated space to our local rescue groups. The plans include a large saltwater aquarium that will provide educational opportunities to local children in subjects like water chemistry and marine biology. Our aquarium will also be an interesting stop for tourists who come to explore Manhattan Project National Historical Park. You will have to visit to find out why!
PPN: What is your best tip for connecting with customers?
Wells: No matter the mechanism of connecting with customers, whether it be via social media or an eye-to-eye conversation, you have to make sure that you are actively listening and that the message you convey, the feeling in your heart and your thoughts in your head are all aligned. People know when you genuinely care for them and their pets. We have so many different means of communication available in today’s business world. (And, for us, even soon through a robot!) On all of those channels, your very real passion for your clients’ pet needs to come through. The connection that is possible in the pet industry, one of sharing the love of pets, makes being in the pet industry an absolute joy.
Get an inside look at Pet Pangaea in our gallery below.