added. “[Manufacturers] know that [the independent channel] is where the growth is
going to be, and manufacturers that truly believe in the integrity of their brand might
have to make that decision to sustain [their businesses] in pet specialty.”
Similarly, Jim Castleberry, director of merchandising for Pet Food Express, predicted
that other companies will follow suit as their contracts with the online retailer expire.
However, he warned that independent retailers will be waiting to see which companies
stand by their initial pledge.
“It’s about meaning what you say,” he said.
Michael Di Tullio, president and owner of Especially for Pets, which has seven
stores in Massachusetts, agreed, saying that companies such as Fromm and Champion
might also set a precedent and an example that new manufacturers in the market could
Another sentiment prevalent among the meeting’s retailer attendees was that manufacturers would be able to make the difficult decision to walk away from selling on the
mega site in part because they could count on the support of their independent retailer
“[These manufacturers] have gone out on a ledge,” Castleberry said. “And we want
to make sure they are rewarded for it—rewarded with product, sales and focus.”
Al Puntillo, chief merchandising officer for Mud Bay, which has stores in Washing-
ton and Oregon, said his company is reciprocating the commitment made by the Nutri-
Source brand by re-evaluating its partnership with the company and finding additional
opportunities to support and promote its products.
“We wanted them to feel immediately rewarded—it’s a reward and response situ-
ation,” Puntillo said.
Granger, too, pointed out the importance of a reciprocal and mutually beneficial relationship between independent retailers and product manufacturers in the pet industry.
“If retailers aren’t doing well, we aren’t doing well,” she said. “So the time is now to
be more committed to talking more about partnerships.”
Retailer attendees also shared a sense of optimism that brick-and-mortar independents will not succumb to the online competition that has been threatening the channel
in recent years.
“This is just one step—one step in the evolution,” said Scott Click, owner of Tomlin-son’s, a Texas chain with 14 stores.
Recalling the sense of doom many independent retailers experienced in the early
days of the advent of big-box pet specialty stores, Click added that this is simply another
“evolution we have to get through,” noting that brick-and-mortar is still growing.
Levy concurred, estimating a rate of 90 percent growth of retailers represented in
“No one is closing stores,” he said. “They’re actually adding stores.”
Lars Wulf, co-CEO of Mud Bay, on the other hand, said he views the current shifts
in the market not simply as an evolution, but as a “sorting out.”
“Brand portfolios are continually evolving,” he said, adding that manufacturers that
make “strategically informed decisions” that respond appropriately to the changing
landscape of the market will be the ones to survive in the long run.
During the meeting, the manufacturers were also recognized by the retail attendees
for their leadership and support of the independent channel, and presented with a “to-
ken of appreciation” by Levy and Di Tullio.
“Sometimes, manufacturers just don’t get enough recognition, so
we thought this was the right thing to do,” Levy said. ◊
INDUSTRYV OI CES
What are you looking for as you shop the SuperZoo trade show floor?
“We are here looking for new
products to sell on Jackson Galaxy’s
online store. When the company
first started, we exclusively sold his
brand of products. However, we have
begun to branch out and are selling other
products that he loves in addition to his own
[products]. We are keeping an eye out for innovative
cat products, mainly for kittens and senior cats who
have special needs, to take back to Jackson for
approval.” —TOAST TAJIRI of JacksonGalaxy.com
“SuperZoo is the only [trade] show
I go to. I enjoy coming here to see
new products and talk to new
distributors in order to get the best
deals for my business. This year, I’m
looking for more boutique items, like
gifts and toys for kids, to add a new side
to my bwusiness.”—BOB BIDERBACK of Paw
Shoppe Pet Center in Long Beach, Calif.