May 2018 Pet Product News International 81
Jennifer Larsen, co-owner of Firehouse Pet Shop in Wenatchee, Wash.
With popcorn, coffee, fire hats, music, photo ops
and more—plus loads of nutritional products for
pets—Firehouse Pet Shop is the place to be for
shoppers in Wenatchee, Wash.
Years in business: 3
Type of business: brick-and-mortar
Services offered: Full-service grooming, walk-in nail services, self-wash spa, cat adoptions
Bring on the Fun
Pet Product News: What are the top-selling products in your store right now?
Jennifer Larsen: Dog food is easily our best category, with Fromm, Champion and
NutriSource taking the lead consecutively. Treats is our next big category. We
always look for new, unique and healthful treats. Earth Animal No-Hides—we
don’t sell rawhide so this is a go-to—and our bulk biscuit bar—we rotate several
high-quality treats in our bulk selection—are the biggest sellers here. After those, it
would be jerky and freeze-dried treats but split pretty evenly by brands as we have
a pretty large selection. Body parts would be one of the next-highest sales categories.
PPN: What are your favorite products right now?
Larsen: I love new products so they might not be my top sellers yet, but they are
always new and exciting. Some examples might be Colorado Hemp Honey, colostrum, GoughNuts toys and West Paw’s Qwizl. And not new to us—but some longtime faves—are Pet Releaf’s cannabidiol (CBD) products, Answers Pet Food’s goat’s
milk, local driftwood cat trees, and our newest bulk brand, The Pound Bakery, has
started strong with tons of great feedback from customers.
PPN: What industry trends have you been keeping your eye on most closely?
Larsen: The CBD market has been a quickly expanding market with new brands
and items coming out constantly. I also think anything from a holistic approach is
rapidly growing. Customers are learning more and more to research for themselves
and not just trust ads or even their vets. They ask more questions and read up on
topics. They are tired of giving medications and want more holistic solutions.
PPN: What business challenge are you currently in the process of tackling?
Larsen: When we opened we really only had a Petco in town. But we just had a
PetSmart open a couple months ago, and that is something we have been gearing
up for. They are bringing in more and more foods that you used to see in independent chains, like Nulo and now Taste of the Wild. We have tried to diversify and
transition those customers onto foods that support the small independent stores
like Fromm, Champion and NutriSource. We carry several brands of food, but now
Taste of the Wild is the only one you might find in those stores. We felt it was important to get ahead of it.
E-commerce is, of course, another challenge, but we are hoping to be able to offer
PPN: What business goal are you hoping to achieve this year?
that soon. We feel our customers that prefer to get it online for whatever reason will
prefer to shop local and are hoping this helps those customers do that.
Larsen: E-commerce and possible local delivery are our biggest ones. We just finished a remodel/expansion at the end of 2017, and just changed websites, POS
systems and added Astro, and hired a manager, so we are looking forward to a bit
of time to catch up and enjoy the benefits of those, and breathe! Outside of that, we
will always be looking for ways to improve—fun programs and ideas to add like
birthday parties, etc.
PPN: What are your best tips for connecting with customers?
Larsen: We strive to, first and foremost, staff enough help to cover several customers
at all times. We have built our staff to approximately 18 in the first few years (not
including groomers), and we schedule so there are a lot of people on the floor ready
to help and assist anyone. We have a fun, engaging well-trained staff that customers
have come to trust and know personally. It feels like a family party most days in
here with people talking and laughing on several aisles.
We offer free popcorn, free coffee, kids’ shopping carts that say “Customer in
Training” on them, free fire hats for the kids and free birthday dress-up photos with
a treat, and we’ll spend as long as it takes to help find solutions for people’s dogs.
We also offer any special orders on a one-time or routine basis—we strive to never
lose a sale to anyone else. We actually have the big-box stores sending people to us
saying that we will do special orders.
How close are you to your neighbors? Building strong relationships with your
business neighbors and being involved in the community goes a long way with
word-of-mouth and building loyalty.
Lastly, don’t be afraid of technology and millennials. We encourage our employees to carry their phones, take pictures of dogs to post on social media, look
up reviews, look up products customers are asking about, read ingredients of food
that people are currently feeding, show customers’ reviews on dog foods they are
currently on or we suggest switching to, etc. Embrace it so millennials can relate to
you as a retailer. At the very least, blast their furry kids on social media so they feel
appreciated and part of your store!
1. Jennifer and Allen Larsen, co-owners
2. Firehouse Pet Shop changes its street-facing window displays about seven times a year.
3. Outdoor product displays help draw customers in to the store.
4. Firehouse Pet Shop donated the product and students from Wenatchee High School
donated their time, washing more than 60 dogs on one Saturday, with all proceeds going
to the Wenatchee Valley Humane Society.
5. Shoppers love that the store stocks products for people as well as pets.
6. The self-wash section of the store boasts myriad grooming products to try.
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