Connect with us

Candace D'Agnolo

How to Make the Most of Relationships With Pet Vendor Partners

Doing so will create a win-win for both the retailer and the brand.




YOUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH vendors are some of your most valuable assets. By collaborating closely with key vendor partners (think: the owners or employees of the brands you sell, their sales reps, and your distributors) you can gain a competitive edge, better serve your customers and grow your business. But I often hear that pet professionals don’t know what to ask their reps for or that they’ve never thought beyond free samples, coupons and raffle items.

Here, I’m sharing tips from what I experienced in my previous boutique and what our Pet Boss Nation clients have done to maximize these critical partnerships for the greatest success:

Start with the ‘why.’ Before engaging in negotiations or asking for something, get clear on your desired outcome and motivations. What exactly do you want to achieve and why? You should also consider what a “win” looks like for your vendor, too. How can you create mutually beneficial outcomes? And of course, make sure you’re talking to the decision-maker who can help you reach those goals.

Leverage your insights. Prior to meetings, gather relevant data, facts and figures to support your position as to how much your business may grow together, what piece of the market could be captured or how many customers would be impacted by their generosity. Where does this brand rank in comparison to their competitors in your shop? What percentage of square footage do they have in a specific department? How quickly or slowly is inventory moving? This data can tell stories to influence your negotiation.

Look beyond just pricing. While competitive everyday pricing and special buy-ins are important, think bigger. Could you get early notice on closeouts to score hot deals? Is the vendor open to guaranteed sales, where they’ll buy back products or swap out the inventory of items that don’t move? Negotiating for more free goods, discounts, and terms such as net 15, net 30 or even net 60 can boost your bottom line.

Maximize in-store opportunities. Your brick-and-mortar is a powerful asset. Collaborate with vendors on signage, displays and even custom fixtures to grab attention. Demonstrations, samples, coupons and frequent-buyer programs are sure to incentivize sales. Large window graphics, sponsored in-store experiences, and promotional videos playing on monitors all build awareness and connection to a brand.


Pamper your people. Your team is the face of your business and the in-store sales rep for the vendors. Negotiate for vendor-sponsored staff lunches, team product samples, feeding programs and apparel to drive excitement. See if they’ll cover product training, cash-based sales games or continuing education to boost knowledge. When your employees feel valued, they’ll sell with passion.

Utilize marketing might. Explore marketing co-op dollars for digital, print, radio ads, vehicle wraps, flash sales, gift baskets and exclusive coupons. See if they’ll sponsor your events, contribute to charity fundraisers you support or provide experts for educational seminars. Collaborate on social media, such as takeovers, contests and guest blogs, to expand your reach.

Remember, everything is negotiable. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need to thrive, whether that’s better pricing, in-store support or consumer-facing collaborations. The more creatively you approach your vendor partnerships, the more fruitful they’ll be. It just needs to be a win-win for you both.

Every single idea mentioned here has worked for a small business in the pet industry. I’ve seen it or experienced it. You may not get a brand to do everything, but you have a lot of brands you can leverage for so much support in being the pet retailer your community loves! When you succeed, your vendor partners succeed, too.

LEARN MORE: Relax at a beautiful lake, refuel your leadership confidence and reignite your passion for your pet business at Camp Pet Boss. This one-of-a-kind business retreat mixes conference learning and camp-like activities for pet professionals and their dogs. Happening Aug. 27-30 in Lake Delton, WI, ticket price includes all food, lodging, seminars, swag and activities. Register at




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