Karen Conell, owner of The Bark Market in Delavan, Wis., discusses favorite products, industry trends and the challenge of COVID-19.

Pet Product News: What is The Bark Market best known for? 

Karen Conell: Clients are referred to us or seek us out for advice and guidance on proper nutrition for their dogs and cats. We love to educate clients and help them make educated choices. We feel we are a resource—not just selling products, but also giving customers proper information so they can make great decisions.

PPN: What are the top-selling products in your store right now?

Conell: Our best-selling products are raw and freeze-dried raw diets; best-selling brands are Primal, Steve’s Real Food, Stella & Chewy’s and Northwest Naturals. We also sell a lot of products designed to enhance kibble, such as Primal goat’s milk and bone broths. A close second would be cannabidiol (CBD) treats and oils. Treatibles and Mrs. Beaster’s CBD treats are very popular. Clients give [them to their pets] for anxiety, pain and seizures.

PPN: What are your favorite products right now?

Conell: My favorite products are the entire supplement line by Herbsmith. Based on traditional Chinese medicine, these natural and effective products have given our clients’ pets relief from everything from allergies to hip and joint issues to anxiety and digestive issues. Clear AllerQi for allergies, Sound Dog Viscosity for hip/joint health, July Third and Calm Shen for anxiety, and Microflora probiotic for gut health. These over-the-counter remedies provide relief for pets, and we love that!

PPN: What industry trends have you been keeping your eye on most closely?

Conell: Industry trends are interesting to me but don’t always translate into our market here in Southeast Wisconsin. The national trends show an increase in the popularity of raw diets, freeze-dried toppers, etc. …We’ve sold raw and freeze-dried raw for 10 years, so we, for once, were ahead of the trend. Same with supplements. We saw the value of quality supplements before most people knew what they were.

PPN: What business challenges are you currently in the process of tackling?  

Conell: COVID-19 has been a big focus for the past nine months. We are fully open but are aware that we must provide a safe environment for our customers. It’s on our minds constantly. The canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) subject also pops up, and it has been difficult to reassure clients that they are making the right choices and to sort out fact from fiction.

PPN: What is your best tip for connecting with customers?

Conell: We are an intimate, smaller store, operating in the same location for 25 years, although we are moving to a new space close by [soon]. We take a genuine interest in our clients and their journeys with their pets. We are very active on social media—Facebook and Instagram—so keep reaching out to customers even when they aren’t [there] in person! Show a genuine interest in your customers, and make sure your staff does too. We feel we are a community here, not just a store. I think that explains why we’ve been able to survive the ups and downs.