Retailers: How do you tell your story?
What you stock on your pet store shelves can either help or hurt you if it doesn’t tell a story. In fact, the product you chose to carry should tell YOUR story, which will speak to your customer. Most independent pet store owners I know got into this business because they had a sick pet, or pet food issue – so they vowed to make things better. And most pet store owners that are thriving in the midst of COVID & DCM have unwavering customer loyalty because they have differentiated themselves from everyone else. The ones that are struggling haven’t quite figured out how to separate themselves from the pack, yet.
We differentiate ourselves by defining what we stand for, and by holding pet food, treat and toy companies accountable – So why aren’t most of us doing that? It’s no secret that as many as 20% of independent pet retailers will close their doors in 2020 – and with pet ownership booming as a result of the pandemic this shouldn’t be happening.
If you consume any amount of your time chasing Chewy’s prices, selection or their customer – you’re simply setting yourself up for failure. As an independent retailer you can never offer a similar product offering as Chewy while simultaneously complaining about fighting the never-ending battle of competing on price – you’ll lose every time. It may be an unpopular truth – but it’s still the truth.
In order to leave your mark and compete in the industry you must stop selling product and instead sell yourself and your brands story. This is your pet food philosophy – whatever that may be. Is it ‘science’ based brands? Is it independent only brands? Grain free? Raw only? Is it a little of everything? And why? It doesn’t matter – I support you regardless of whatever that is as long as you stick by it unapologetically and hold those companies accountable to quality product. Again - the lesson is that you are not selling product – you are selling yourself and your brand philosophy. This doesn’t mean you can’t redefine your philosophy from time to time based on brand evolution, emerging data and science. However, redefining your philosophy better not be because a pet food company or distributor told you that you have to change to survive. You’ll never get ahead by doing what everyone else is doing, expecting a different result.
By not consuming yourself with added stressors of online and big box competition you’ll have more time, energy (and less stress) to redirect into holding manufacturers accountable. What do I mean? It gives you time to ask tough questions, demand data and transparency from pet food companies and therefore raise the bar. If you continue to lean into companies marketing (not science) you’ll continue to fall victim to the same BS we continue to see (i.e. DCM, formulation errors and recalls). What tough questions should you ask? Check out the top 5 questions consumers should ask their pet food companies – it’s a great place to start. The result of this approach is that your customers will see you advocating for them and appreciate you even more. That is how we leave this industry better than we found it.