16 Pet Product News International SUPERZOO SHOW DAILIES July 2017 5, 2017
BY MICHAEL JOHNSON
Over the past handful of years, some histori- cally strong and esteemed retailers have an- nounced layoffs, store closings and even bank- ruptcies. It seems as though every week we are bombarded with this kind of news. Sadly, the pet industry is not immune to this kind of
upheaval, and, indeed, many retailers in our industry are
feeling the pinch.
The pet business is getting tougher every single day.
How can you, as a pet retailer, defend yourself in this
Crafting a successful and sustainable retail strategy
today is difficult, but it begins with some self-awareness.
Can you answer these questions?
• As a retailer, who are you?
• Who is your consumer?
• Who will be—or should be—your consumer
• What do today’s and tomorrow’s consumers want
from you? Is there someplace else they can satisfy
their needs? How are you evolving to be their retailer of choice?
• What are you able/willing to do better than anybody
• What could put you out of business tomorrow?
If you feel that the answers to some of those questions
are challenging, know you are not alone. Much of pet retailing requires heavy day-in, day-out blocking and tackling, and it is not always feasible to stay up to speed on
all retail, industry and consumer trends, let alone make
business decisions based upon them. But being able to answer these questions and develop this level of knowledge
and alertness is essential, as disruption is always happening—and it’s what you don’t see coming that will get you.
So you need to get busy.
One very effective and accessible way to begin to drive
self-awareness is through a SWOT (strengths, weakness-es, opportunities and threats) analysis. If, by chance,
you’ve never heard of this, a simple web search will provide ample information to get you started.
A SWOT analysis is a simple tool, to be sure, but, done
correctly, it will require deep introspection and extrospection, and will prove invaluable in setting or adjusting a
strategy. Taking this hard, unflinchingly honest look at
your business is the best first step toward crafting a road-map to success and longevity.
Strategy legend Michael Porter famously said, “The
essence of strategy is choosing what not to do,” and in an
industry where so many of us are similar and carry the
same items for roughly the same shoppers, this is indeed
a compelling thought. How will you zig whilst they zag?
How will you differentiate?
Time to ask yourself those tough questions. And as
a thought-starter for your strategic journey, here are just
two trend opportunities to ponder:
MILLENNIAL PET OWNERS
Are millennials shopping your stores? And I don’t mean a
few of them—this is now the largest generation in America, and, yes, they are every bit as likely to own pets as
the generations that got us here. Are you seeing at least
as many 18- to 34-year-olds in your stores as you do their
parents and grandparents? Are you the solution store for
this shopper? If not, get on that. They are the key to much
of your future growth.
To be fair, millennials have been a tricky conundrum
for many in our industry. I’m frequently asked by retailers and brands alike why they should worry about
marketing to this generation when the other generations
continue to be so lucrative. Won’t the millennials eventually come around to how we do things? Just why are
they so important?
The simple and overly brief explanation is that millennials were raised to be consummate shoppers by their
forebears but during a time of economic uncertainty and
downturn, so they’ve learned to shop differently. They’ve
learned to shop more effectively, more discriminately.
Millennials have increased emphasis on certain purchase
facets: authenticity, experience, transparency, personal
connection, two-way communication, personalization
and customization, convenience, accessibility, and, of
course, deal-deal-deal and bargain-bargain-bargain. In
the millennial world, things are quicker, faster and focused entirely on “me.” Services are also frictionless and
Well, guess what? Some of these wild millennial-driv-en vicissitudes have turned out to be useful developments
for all shoppers. In fact, it seems that the other generations
are actually the ones coming around. For example, if millennials are able to either improve the value and speed of
a certain service or drive down the cost of a certain product, are there any shoppers that wouldn’t want to hop on
PRICE IS BECOMING INNOVATION
In our industry, where we’ve constantly pressured manufacturers to innovate, we’re starting to see that price itself
is becoming an innovation. Online shops as well as some
physical retailers are beginning to cut back on margin
while still offering quality, and their sales are increasing.
One of consumers’ paramount purchase determinants is,
and will always be, price, and retailers that can satisfy a
shopper’s needs while balancing that shopper’s price-val-
ue equation have a huge leg up.
However, price-value does not necessarily mean
“cheap” or “low quality,” but instead, it means a realistic
point on a scale where the consumer believes they are getting the fair and correct value for their money. Consumers
tend to buy the best quality they can afford. In pet, we’ve
built much of our growth on trading pet consumers up
to higher-quality but more-expensive brands. However,
this trend continues to price many shoppers out of our
stores as declining numbers of U.S. shoppers have the
wherewithal to keep on following us up that price ladder.
Today, according to the Social Security Administration (most current 2015 data), 50 percent of wage earners
make less than $30,000 per year. These are shoppers who
we are increasingly missing as we default them to alternate channels to find their pet products. In today’s retail
environment—where every shopper counts, and in our
pet world, where every pet deserves safe, high-quality
products—we need to find a way to accommodate these
consumers. We need to carry quality products they can
afford—for both of our sakes. Remember this: If you can’t
get a shopper into your store in the first place, you can’t
educate them and you can’t trade them up.
Pet retail will continue to be a viable industry even
as the competition intensifies. As a retailer, you can
weather any storm if you can stay ahead of it. Start asking yourself those tough questions and creating your
strategy right now.
Michael Johnson is a pet channel observer and futurist. He has
been a featured speaker for organizations such as PIDA, PIJAC,
SuperZoo University, Petfood Workshop and APPA. He has
written articles and/or been quoted in magazines such as Pet
Business, Pet Age, Pet Product News and Petfood Industry.
and Your Customers
Speaker Michael Johnson explains why specialty retailers that
understand the pet market and their place within it
stand the best chance of surviving any storm.
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