137 August 2016 Pet Product News International
by b.c. heNscheN
how do your customers find you? Why do they keep coming to you?
For many stores, customers are
highly devoted to their pet and are
very Internet savvy. Often, you
get a customer because they read
about a product on the Internet,
then clicked over to the manufacturer’s page to find a retailer close
to them. That customer already
has researched the food they want,
and all you need to do is take their
money. Gotta love customers like
that, right? Wrong! Those are the
customers who are leaving brick-and-mortar in droves.
Have you ever noticed the
advertising you get online after
searching for something? Do a
quick search for a pet food and
you will see ads all over for that
product. When I searched for a
product, I immediately saw four
ads offering the product for sale.
Let’s say your customer hears
about a new food on the Saint Bernard forum. It’s the food all the
Saint Bernards are eating, so the
customer does a search for that
food and sees four ads offering it
with free shipping right there on
the screen. All the customer has to
do is click, and soon that food will
be delivered to their door. With
the tracking cookies websites are
using, those relevant ads will be
appearing for days whenever the
customer searches the Internet,
and the most sophisticated websites can send a targeted email
with what a person is looking for.
A speaker at Petfood Forum
said that by 2020, up to 60 percent of pet product sales might
be online. Where are the other
40 percent buying pet food? My
guess is from a grocery store or
mass retailer. But they’re not your
California Natural and Evo
both announced they would not
offer their food via e-commerce.
Many think this is a way to help
the independent pet specialty
market. As I wrote this column,
I did a quick search for Evo, and
the first result was one of the big
online-only pet food supply com-
panies that still had it available.
Hmmm, somebody should tell
them that’s not allowed.
The second result was anoth-
er online-only pet supply com-
pany. The ad I clicked on made
it look like the company had
Evo in stock, but when I actually
clicked, I got the following mes-
sage, “We’re sorry, but Evo is no
longer sold online. Below are al-
ternatives to Evo based on quali-
ty, ingredients and nutrition. For
more recommendations, feel free
to live chat.”
Do you really think the person
who is used to purchasing their
pet food online is going to say
“Aww shucks, I guess I have to
go to the store now”? They might
once or twice, but then they are
going to go back and look at the
In my quick search, I noticed
Evo was available online from
three different websites, including on Amazon. Boy, I sure hope
these rule breakers don’t get in
too much trouble. Amazon averages 35 orders a second. A
second During the peak of Cyber
Monday in 2012, Amazon did
306 items per second. I’m sure the
company will be terrified by the
letter it gets for selling Evo.
I like to consider myself an
optimist, but I do tend to lean toward being a realist. I don’t have
a silver lining to put on this. We,
as micro independent pet specialty stores, are going to lose business to the Internet.
The only advice I can give is
to make sure you keep yourself
educated and offer something
the Internet can’t: a real conversation. Talk to each person who
walks in your store. Let them
know you are keeping track of
what pet foods they are feeding,
so if anything changes, you’ll be
able to assist them in finding a
different product. Make sure
you are offering supplements
and add-ons that are hard for
a lot of people to get started on
Sell yourself, sell your knowledge and sell a great product.
Whatever you do, don’t just carry
the bag out to the car; there are a
ton of companies willing to carry
a customer’s bag all the way to
their front doorstep, but only a
few really know the product they
b.c. heNscheN, a certified pet care technician and an
accredited pet trainer, is a partner in PlatINum Pa Ws,
a full-service pet salon and premium pet food store in
carmel, Ind. his knowledge of the pet food industry
makes Platinum Paws the go-to store for pet owners
who want more for their pet than a bag off a shelf.
Break the Connection
What are you doing to stand out from online demons and
keep customers from engaging in the digital habit?
Gary hoeflich, co-owner with
his wife, Joann, of Pet supply,
which has seven stores in orange
type of business:
years in business: 33
special services and community involvement: Dog and cat
adoptions weekly; free delivery for anyone who requests it; nail
grinding service for small dogs that tend to be difficult to handle.
Pet Product News: What are the top-selling products in your store right now?
Gary hoeflich: We carry a huge selection of products you won’t
see in many places, including kibble dog food brands like
Replenish, Maximum Bully, Zignature, Canidae and Nature’s
Variety. We have very competitive prices and we keep large
inventories, so I’m very rarely out of stock on anything. In dog
foods, fresh-frozen raw diets are very popular now. We have
invested heavily in freezer capacity to offer the largest selection
in SoCal. We happen to be No. 1 in sales in the U.S. for Stella
& Chewy’s freeze-dried products. Every customer’s dog that
comes into our stores gets free samples.
PPN: What are your favorite products right now?
Gh: My favorite products are always ones that solve customers’
problems, whatever they might be. The trick is to match the
product with the problem correctly. Lately, we have seen a
lot of yeast infections in dogs causing constant scratching and
itching. We have very successful solutions for that problem.
PPN: What trends have you been keeping your eye on most closely?
Gh: Customers are very educated on products lately. They want
to eat healthfully themselves and have their dog or cat eat
healthfully too. So better, more healthful foods are tending to
sell better than low-cost options.
Cat ownership is surpassing dog, so we have been increasing
our cat selection. We just opened a 6,000-square-foot cat section.
It is the largest in the U.S. and has been very successful. Customers love to be able to shop for their cats and not have to sort
between the dog products.
PPN: What business challenge are you currently in the process of tackling?
Gh: As always, rents are up, payroll is up, sales are up but
profits are squeezed—so kind of the same story everyone in
the U.S. is facing. Also, the e-commerce problem. We introduce
customers to a product and then they order it online because it
might be cheaper. That’s a big problem, and I believe the manufacturers need to implement Internet minimum advertised
price policies better. If customers want to buy online, that’s
fine, as long as the prices are correct.
PPN: What business goal are you
hoping to achieve this year?
Gh: Increase customer
traffic in all stores and
increase profit margins
while keeping prices
reasonable. Our motto
is “Helping to keep pet
A chain of Southern California stores
offers a vast array of products—including
a 6,000-square-foot cat section—along
with spot-on customer service.