Feed won the Retailer Excellence Award for Best Overall
2- to 10-Unit Retailer at this year’s Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March. The company uses Pet Store Pro to
build the foundational knowledge their associates need
before new hires are allowed to interact with shoppers
on the sales floor.
“Our customers are loyal because they know that
everyone who works here delivers reliably excellent
service,” Sturm said. “Pet Store Pro provides the consistency that would be hard to achieve on our own with all
the daily responsibilities and distractions of running the
business. It’s easy to forget that new hires don’t know
everything that more-experienced employees do, and
hard to ensure that every associate starts with the same
information if we were to rely on verbal training alone.”
Pet Store Pro provides the structure and feedback to
make sure that your entire team can meet your expectations. The user-friendly owner/manager dashboard
makes it easy to review assignments, set deadlines and
check progress. Test results help managers identify if an
associate needs more hands-on coaching.
Core training for Agri Feed’s new hires includes Pet
Store Pro’s chapters on Pet Retail Basics, Engaging Customers, Suggestive Selling, Cashier Service Basics, and
basic and advanced Customer Service & Sales. Managers
must complete the six core courses too, so they understand the capabilities of the associates in their charge.
Some of the pet care and management chapters may also
be assigned to new hires, depending on their experience.
Courses are completed at the store, on the clock,
on a dedicated computer located where there are no
“We accommodate for students’ different knowledge
bases and learning styles, but because their first few
shifts are devoted entirely to the training, they rarely
need more time,” Sturm said. “Some employees find the
training a lot to take in at first but end up realizing that it
really helps their confidence.”
Training pays off quickly for Liz’s Pet Shop too, according to Matt Varella, who manages his family’s store in
“We’re so small that we tend to be picky about who
we hire, even when we’re short-staffed, because everyone
has to do their share,” he said. “We’ve made the mistake
of shortchanging the training process in the past, but good
help is too valuable not to develop properly.”
Professional training is a job benefit that can help in-
dependent retailers engage your workforce.
“There’s been a shift in our hiring pool over the past
few years,” Varella said. “Applicants are placing a higher
standard on job satisfaction and learning opportunities.
Our training program shows that we respect our team
members’ potential and helps them respect our business.”
Varella uses Pet Store Pro to teach fundamental retail
techniques, customer service and pet care skills to every
“The modular format makes it easier to prioritize the
order in which I assign courses, based on where we need
additional coverage in the store,” he said.
Varella prints the study guides and tests for students
to complete during weekly scheduled sessions in the
store’s back office, and then meets with employees one-on-one to discuss topics he wants to emphasize.
“Students who ace every question on a chapter test
still have to demonstrate their knowledge,” he added.
“That helps me decide whether a trainee needs more help
with a certain lesson or isn’t taking the training seriously.”
“Our distributor and manufacturer sales reps respect
the fact that we won’t agree to carry a product unless they
can show us how it offers a real benefit to our customers,”
Varella said. “People come to us because they want to talk
about what they need instead of clicking and choosing
online. If you skip the training and just push merchan-
dise, you miss opportunities to build repeat business and
Training isn’t just for new hires. It’s also a way to prepare
your team for new responsibilities and determine if employees qualify for a promotion or a raise. For some associates, it can even be a step toward a long-term career at
That’s how it turned out for Leah Watkins, manager of
Aquarium, a pond, reef and fish store in Knoxville, Tenn.
She was the store’s newest employee when it started using
Pet Store Pro in 2009.
“I didn’t expect to stay this long when I took the job,”
Watkins said, “but then I became very engaged and real-
ized it could become a fulfilling career.”
Pet Store Pro is the sales component of Aquarium’s six-
week training program, which Watkins took over manag-
ing a few years ago.
“When the program was first introduced, the initial response was poor because all the details and requirements
were thrown at the staff at once,” she said. “We’ve adjusted by setting more realistic deadlines and explaining the
importance of training to new hires upfront.”