beam theme, along with all the additional visual effects we build into our new stores. The interior environmental differentiation is an important business
strategy that we have invested in to improve our
CountryMax shopping brand. We feel we need to not
only entice new customers with our store design, but
also ensure that our existing customers enjoy their visit at our stores.
The response to the new and updated formats has
been extremely positive. We have had numerous positive comments about our stores’ format coming from
the people that matter—our customers.
DENISE STRONG: Our customer base and sales increased each and every month in 2017. Community involvement, fundraisers for animal rescue, advertising
in three local newspapers, compassionate and caring
one-on-one customer service with complete knowledge of all products in-store, and free home delivery
are key to business strategy.
MARK VITT: 2017 was generally an improvement over
the previous year, as we capitalized on store expansion
opportunities to expand our market share. We opened
two new stores and capitalized on our increased store
presence by marketing the ability for customers to
take advantage of our various rewards programs and
grooming/dog wash at all of our locations.
Ascompetitionfrombig-boxandonlineretailerscon-tinues to increase, a number of trends have emerged that
are impacting the way pet specialty retailers do business.
In the past year, pet product manufacturers have introduced various policies, such as minimum advertised price
(MAP) policies, to support independent pet stores. Have
policies like these helped your business remain competitive in your market?
BODEN: MAP pricing, although very hard for some
suppliers to track and enforce, has been a huge help to
my independent store. Also, companies like Champion and Fromm who have pledged their support to the
independent stores and pulled from big online giants,
have taken a bold step—and they should. The small
stores took a chance on them when they were building
their brand. They owe it to us to be loyal to the people
who brought them to the dance in the first place.
KWATERSKI: It is difficult to compete against big-box
and online-only retailers, but they only have two real
advantages over a typical brick-and-mortar store:
price and convenience. While small retailers may never be able to compete directly on the cost of shipping,
MAP pricing is absolutely a step in the right direction
as we look for ways to level the scales.
In that regard, competing on price with companies
that can offer free shipping will always be an uphill
battle. However, I feel that there is quite a bit of room
to negate the convenience advantage. Online retailers
will continue to struggle to get products in a customer’s hands on the same day that they want it. Things
like combining one-click reordering from our own
web page with same- or next-day delivery will go a
long way to reduce that convenience gap.
PAYNE: I am completely and thoroughly in disagree-
ment with the idea that a solution to the loss of in-
store sales to online sales is to inflict manufacturer ag-
gravation pricing on retailers. Every single business
must survive on their own merit—through their own
operations process and their own method of offering
a noticeable differentiation to their competition. The
free market is the only constant element of all com-
petition, and by inflicting the rude manner of the big
brother infliction of companies like MAPP Trap onto
the struggling brick-and-mortar sites is wrong. The
loss of sales to large organized online sales companies
will never be controlled by inflicting these ineffective
controls on the lowest level of the market—retailers
with online sites. Manufacturer aggravation pricing
does not support independent pet stores no matter
how many ways it is dished out.
STRONG: I have always been competitive with big-box
and online pricing. Now that more MAP policies are
actually being enforced, not only can I remain competitive, I am seeing higher profit margins on my products with MAP policies firmly in place in many of the
product lines I carry.
VITT: We absolutely talk up the fact that our prices
are equal to—or in many cases better than—any other
big-box, online or even other pet specialty stores. Even
though our outstanding merchandising and store designs imply “high end,” we point out that our prices
are extremely competitive, and our frequent buyer
and rewards programs make each purchase even
more consumer-friendly. We plan to promote our excellent price point even more in 2018.
do more in order to support independent pet specialty
BODEN: Manufacturers should definitely do more
to help the independents. We are the ones educating the customers, not the online giants. Even
steps like what Honest Kitchen has done—
offering “buy 10, get one free” instead of the normal
“buy 12”—helps us convert more sales.
KWATERSKI: While I appreciate the broad adoption of MAP pricing and the solidarity from some
companies that simply refuse to sell on the large
online retailers, I would always welcome more
help. Consolidation of smaller independent companies into larger ones has been happening in a
number of industries for decades, and the fight
is here in the pet specialty retailer sector now. I
think consumers are smart enough to appreciate
a good food for their pet and many are willing to
seek out their local retailers, but there’s a lot of
money and desire to satisfy shareholders on the
other side of the fence.
PAYNE: Pet supply manufacturers have always
supported pet supply retail, and many have continued to try and figure out a way to maintain
those supports in a changing industry. The over-riding challenge now for manufacturers is how to
support all of the sales channels of their products.
Very few manufacturers can look away from the
massive amounts of sales being generated by a
few huge online sales companies. The size and
scale of the manufacturer will dictate the initial
decision on where they offer out their products.
“MAP pricing, although very hard
for some suppliers to track and
enforce, has been a huge help to my
independent store.”—Pattie Boden,
of Animal Connection
“I am completely and thoroughly
in disagreement with the idea that
a solution to the loss of
in-store sales to online sales is to
inflict manufacturer aggravation
pricing on retailers. ”
—Don Payne, of CountryMax
Dealer Support team
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© 2018 by Rolf C. Hagen Inc.