Connect with us


Head or Heart: Is It Just Business? Or Did the Brand Lie?

Chris and Nancy Guinn of Dog Krazy stores in Virginia share their difference of opinion about discontinuing a brand.





CHRIS AND I couldn’t be more different when it comes to running our business. He is the head, and I am the heart. While he loves animals almost as much as I do, Chris puts the business’s needs at the forefront of most Dog Krazy decisions, while I follow what my heart tells me to do. One decision we struggle with as partners is when to discontinue a brand in our stores.

The Problem

HEART: Ingredients and sourcing, honesty and integrity are the top qualities I value when considering a product line for our stores. When I say I will only carry food I would feed to my own pets, I mean it. I also expect companies to stand behind their products, and I expect them to be honest with me if there are ever any issues. I can move past recalls if the company truly did everything in its power to prevent the cause.

Honesty and integrity are especially important to me. When my dog had a seizure after eating a brand of food, I reached out to the company and they did nothing to make the situation right. I returned $10,000 in their product to the distributor. Months later, they recalled that exact same food. Had the company listened to me and simply tested the food I fed my dog, so many others would not have been affected. That incident proved to me I should always follow my heart.


More recently, Chris and I disagreed about whether or not to discontinue food from a company that had promised loyalty — in writing — to independent pet stores. It’s a great food line, and at the time, we were selling more than $150,000 of it a year. When it went into a big-box store, I felt like they had lied to us.

HEAD: I have spent many a night taking antacid because of manufacturer faux pas. Nancy will say, “We have to get rid of ‘XYZ’ brand.” My response is, “But we make money on it. How can we just get rid of it? What about the customers we’re going to lose?”

I agree with Nancy that if you have standards, you stick to them. I agree that ingredients and sourcing are important, and honesty and integrity go hand in hand for me. Of course, we also have to be able to make a healthy margin on anything we carry. Shelf space is a high commodity, and I want items that turn at a good margin.

But my stance has always been, business is business. Take your feelings out of it. If a company says, “We’re going in this direction” and then turns around and says, “Hey, we’re actually going in this direction,” it’s not usually for dubious reasons. It’s just business. The company needs to make money, just like we all do to stay profitable.

This was my stance on the recent situation involving a brand that initially promised loyalty to indies, but decided to go into big-box stores. Nancy was, as usual, thinking with her heart: They “lied” to us and therefore must go. “No,” I responded, “they made a strategic business move to ensure they are profitable.”

Everything else was on the up and up. Looking at what Nancy considers her top qualities required from a brand: 1) Ingredients and sourcing, they had not changed; 2) honesty, they let everyone know what they were doing before they did it; and 3) integrity, they said, “We’re going left,” and then they said, “Now we’re going right.” I ask you, what do you do when a decision doesn’t work out the way you expected? Do you stand by it and let your business decline? No, you adjust.


The Decision

HEART: I decided to clearance out all of the brand’s products and replace them with food from a brand I knew had the qualities I look for when deciding what to bring into our stores.

HEAD: Being married to a strong-willed person means you won’t win many debates on whether a product stays in your stores or not.

The Results

HEART: We lost customers. They were loyal to the brand we discontinued and not to us. For months, both Chris and the food’s rep asked me to bring the line back into our stores. I refused. I knew in my heart I made the right decision, especially as I’ve watched what has happened with the brand since.

HEAD: Losing $150,000 in revenue definitely put a dent in our bottom line, and it took a long time to recover. I wouldn’t have dropped the line then, but as Nancy mentioned, what has happened with the brand since … they would have been gone.

And sticking to our guns, our morals, our beliefs, whatever you want to call it, has its benefits. We have amazing customers who can easily shop elsewhere, but who choose to shop with us even though we may cost a little more or may not be as conveniently located as the closest big-box store.

They trust us to always put them first and stand for what we believe in.

That’s where the head and the heart come together. It actually works out to be better business when you stand strong and are transparent with your customers about the decisions you make. It deepens their trust in you and helps build their lifetime value.




NASC Media Spotlight

At first it was just an idea: Animal supplements needed the same quality control that human-grade supplements receive. But that was enough to start a movement and an organization —the National Animal Supplement Council — that would be dedicated to establishing a comprehensive path forward for the animal supplements industry. In this Media Spotlight interview, NASC’s president, Bill Bookout, talks to PETS+ interviewer Chloe DiVita about the industry today: Where it’s headed, what’s the latest focus and why it’s vital to gain the involvement of independent pet product retailers.

Promoted Headlines

Most Popular