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Do You Or Don't You

Pet Businesses Divided on Tariffs’ Impacts

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Yes: 54%

  • It will impact pricing on some of our products, but just as important will be the effect of increased prices on everything else in our clients’ lives. MJ Hall, WOOF … cool stuff for dogs, Plano, TX
  • Some of the products I use are made in China. William Stewart, I Will Walk Boston, Boston, MA
  • We are looking for more made in the USA products. Diane Marcin, Benny’s Pet Depot, Mechanicsburg, PA
  • There are bound to be increase in wholesale costs since most of America is made in China these days. My cost will go up and I will pass that cost onto my clients only if I NEED to. Although I always prefer to shop local and USA made, this definitely makes me think twice before making my wholesale purchases. Leel Michelle, Bow Wow Beauty Shoppe, San Diego, CA
  • Many of our toys, etc. are made outside of the USA, as well as wallets, etc. We are already getting notices of raised prices due to tariffs. Michele A. Shahar, Bubbie’s Store, Las Vegas, NV
  • Not right now but eventually tariffs will affect most everything we use. The US doesn’t make everything we use/need. We import many items we use like vitamin C, spices, herbs. Nancy Okun, Cats n Dogs, Port Charlotte, FL
  • It may have a slight impact on toy and accessory costs but probably won’t affect us much. Russell Herman, Pet$aver Healthy Pet Superstore, Rochester, NY
  • I expect we will see some slower sales on some brands, but not by too much. At this point we are going to just roll with it and see what happens. Shane Somerville, Paddywack, Mill Creek, WA
  • I know that we will have to increase pricing on several hard goods due to the manufacturer price increases. I think customers expect prices to increase over time, but I think the large price increase will make them think that we are too expensive to shop and they may look elsewhere. It’ll be important for me to educate our staff on tariffs and create signage explaining the price increase since most customers have no idea why things are increasing so dramatically. Kara Holland, Pittsboro Pet Supply, Pittsboro, NC
  • So far it has affected the prices of metal cages. Unfortunately due to the volatility of the economy, we have had to take the increase on the chin, which has dipped into our profitability. It may eventually lead to us raising our prices. Doug Staley, Pet Palace of New City, New City, NY
  • Most of my stuff is USA made (all foods, treats, etc.), but obviously some toys/collars are made in China. If that’s the case, then I’ll find USA sources of items that would now be the same. I’m fine with them, as a healthier production in the USA is better for the USA economy. I realize I might very well be different than a lot of people on this subject, but we do rely on overseas manufacturing too much. Eric Mack, Purrrfect Bark, Columbus, NC
  • I’ve been informed by a couple of suppliers that prices are raising by as much as 25 percent in 2019. We’ll just have to shop around or raise prices. Carol Will, Lola & Penelope’s, Clayton, MO
  • I’m starting to see price increases on food earlier this year than usual, so I’m assuming the tariffs are having an effect on steel used in canning. I’m particularly worried about our foods from overseas and Canada, and have been in contact with our reps to stay abreast of the situation. I am looking at lower price margins on these foods so our customers don’t feel the entire brunt of the tariffs. Looking at the “stack it deep, sell it cheap” philosophy. James Henline, Asheville Pet Supply, Asheville, NC

No: 46%

  • Price increases are inevitable so I think it will just be seen as that. That said, I do think that very low priced (cheap) products will be less attractive. Dani Edgerton, Paws on Main, Columbiana, OH
  • As almost all of my products are U.S.-sourced and made, tariffs are not a major factor for us. Duane Poland, Bones-n-Scones of Palm Springs, Palm Springs, CA
  • It’s not the import taxes, but the new minimum wage laws that are going in. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, it is going up to $15 an hour. We already start above minimum wage, but it affects everyone. That is much worse than import taxes. Keth Miller, Bubbly Paws, Minneapolis, MN

Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 11 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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Do You Or Don't You

Do You Hold Sales Contests?

More than half of you don’t.

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Yes: 21%

  • We are about to do it in the new year. If they beat the sales of the corresponding month from the year before, everyone gets Starbucks or pizza. —Sherry Redwine, Odyssey Pets, Dallas, TX
  • When I am trying to grow a food line, staff is incentivized with a $5 to $10 cash spiff for each new customer they put on the food. We will use this for new food lines or when we are discontinuing a line and need to transition the customer. It’s amazing how fast a line grows when they are focusing on it along with getting bonuses to be on it. —Michelle Nelson, The Pet Authority, Albert Lea, MN
  • We have sales goals and contests in each of our stores and between all our stores. It keeps things interesting and helps our crew work towards our sales goals. —Nancy Guinn, Dog Krazy, Fredericksburg, VA
  • We set monthly profit goals in each of our profit centers, and bonus managers if goals are met. Would love some new ideas in this area. —Angela Pantalone, Wag Central, Stratford, CT
  • We usually focus on a category, that way we aren’t promoting a brand, but a solution. My team prefers food as their reward. —Michelle Pelletier, Bentley’s Pet Stuff, Grafton, WI
  • We’ve run various spiffs and sales growth contests. The challenge is to keep sales from dropping off after the additional incentive period ends. —Keefer Dickerson, Nashville Pet Products, Nashville, TN
  • Example: We bring in a new food …. Whoever sells the most food in the first month receives a gift card for gas/stuff. Whoever sells 5 pounds of a specific manufacturer gets $1. Every 15 pounds gets $3. Every 30 pounds gets $5. Biggest sale of the day gets a free lunch. —Debbie Fazica, Pet X Supply & Tack, Howell, MI
  • Every now and then we’ll give out lottery tickets. If an employee makes a sale over $50 (not including pet food), they get a $1 lottery ticket. If they make a sale over $100 (not including pet food), they get three $1 lottery tickets. It works out pretty well sometimes. They might win $5 or $10 once in awhile. We haven’t done it in awhile, and now that you made me think about it, we are going to bring it back in January, when sales are slow. —Diane Marcin, Benny’s Pet Depot, Mechanicsburg, PA
  • Simple: Beat the day, get a percentage of of the difference as a bonus. It keeps everyone hustling to make add-on sales and turning browsers into customers. —Doug Staley, Pet Palace of New City, New City, NY
  • Our most recent contest is not sales-based, but rather getting customers to sign up for our email. I gave the staff the option of winning either a $25 gift card or to have dinner with me at a local restaurant of their choice. When I announced it, I was both surprised and flattered that they all immediately opted for a dinner with the boss. Since launching the contest two weeks ago, I have had them sign up over 100 new customers! —Wendy Megyese, Muttigans, Emerald Isle, NC

No: 79%

  • We try to pay fairly and give back to our employees in ways that are not incentive based. It’s important to the brand of our store and for the overall customer experience that they don’t feel pressured to buy just anything — but rather they leave the store with what they need. Sometimes that may be a lower-priced item —the consumer always appreciates when we save them money, and they always come back when we do. Having sales incentives may skew that experience. —Johnna Devereaux, Fetch RI, Richmond, RI
  • We’re not a big “selling” store. We provide information on what we think is best for the customer. —Eric Mack, Purrrfect Bark, Columbus, NC
  • Most of my staff are just cashier-orientated. Not sales … unfortunately. —Janelle Pitula, Wags to Whiskers, Plainfield, IL
  • We don’t consider ourselves a store that “sells. “ We prefer to consider ourselves a store that helps solve problems. If a product is right for the customer, great, but if not, we want to make sure we’re not acting with a bias towards a product that is getting spiffed. —Shane Somerville, Paddywack, Mill Creek, WA

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Do You Or Don't You

Two Strategies to Deal with Internet Competition: Upping Service, Offering Delivery

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This month’s question: Have you changed your strategy to deal with internet competition?

Yes: 46%

  • Online sales plus local delivery. We also are utilizing the Endless Aisles platform from Phillips for customer retention when we are out of stock on items and need to get something to the customer next day. Penny Jones-Napier, The Big Bad Woof, Washington, DC
  • I’ve used tips on maximizing results from Google, website SEO and Instagram. Also making a larger presence in the community. Melanie Haynes, Space Coast Pet Services, Rockledge, FL
  • We offer home delivery for $4.95 within 10 miles; free over $79. We don’t price-match, but we do remain competitive on certain brands we need to. Eric Mack, Purrrfect Bark, Columbus, NC
  • I recently changed our delivery charge and minimum order amount. We are competitively priced and had a minimum delivery of $25, I recently changed that to be $30 and below $45 is an energy surcharge of $3. Not one client has complained and it has helped us stay competitive. Since Chewy and others are at a $49 for free home delivery I decided we didn’t need to give away our service. Debbie Brookham, Furry Friends Inc., Colorado Springs, CO
  • We are adding online sales to our website. Danielle Chandler, Lewis & Bark’s Outpost, Red Lodge, MT
  • We added more services the internet competitors can’t provide, like a new self serve dog- wash and a treat bar. Pattie Boden, Animal Connection, Charlottesville, VA
  • We have a hyper focus on creating an in-store shopping experience and events. Mike Murray, Bonnie’s Barkery, Phoenix, AZ
  • We’re making sure to have signage that shows the benefits, like the highlights you might see when shopping online. Annabell Bivens, The Dog Store, Alexandria, VA
  • We upped the bar with service, price-matching and in-store events. My business is up, so whatever I’m doing, it must be working, so I am staying the course. Toni Shelaske, Healthy Pet Products, Pittsburgh, PA
  • We have made our return policy more user-friendly, trying to avoid causing people to look around at where else they could shop. I think it has gone well. Returns are smoother and more cheerful on both sides. Connie Roller, The Feed Bag Pet Supply, Grafton, WI
  • We are adding all our inventory to our online store, and we offer free shipping for over $99. We are also adding a lot more features to the customer’s online shopping experience to set us apart from the other online stores. Every day we wake up to more and more online orders. Lots more kibble and cans being shipped and orders over $100. Nancy Guinn, Dog Krazy, Fredericksburg, VA
  • The experience of shopping in our stores has to be worth it. In our marketing, I focus on anything our stores deliver that the internet can’t. Internet sites can’t match our team. They’re the best! Keefer Dickerson, Nashville Pet Products, Nashville, TN
  • When it comes to internet prices, obviously I cannot compete. I’m a small local neighborhood business trying to offer my clients the best of quality foods and products. So I decided to lower my prices in general. I’m not as cheap as the internet but reasonable. Because of that, I do not offer points or sales since my prices are always reasonable. It’s working well and my clients appreciate it as well. Ursula Sanchez, Bucktown Bow & Meow Pet Spa, Chicago, IL
  • I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on. I’m seeking out companies that only sell to independent pet stores. Danielle Wilson, Bath & Biscuits, Granville, OH
  • My competitive advantage is our high-touch customer service and response rate. Our strategy for managing internet competition is a mix of personal touch in each home as well as an education piece. We use our blog to advertise our value and or difference from online tech companies like Rover.com and Wag. Julia Rohan, Rover-Time Dog Walking & Pet Sitting, Chicago, IL
  • I have regrouped what we carry in store. We have bulked up on big sellers, unique things specialty items you can’t find locally. For example we have avian flight suits. We are the only ones that carry them in our area. Sal Salafia, Exotic Pet Birds Inc., Webster, NY

No: 54%

  • Our strengths are customer service and product education. We have good support from the manufacturers. We provide frequent-buyer programs, coupons and specials. We offer a generous reward program. Donna Trill, Healthy Pets NW, Portland, OR
  • I also provide dog grooming services, so I encourage treats or at home sprays to the sales ticket. Recently, I have created a rewards program and am ready to implement it during customer appreciation month. Rachel Malmfeldt, Pampered Pups Grooming, Joliet, IL
  • We offer services; retail is only about 15 percent of my business. I train my staff in canine nutrition so they can answer questions and make recommendations based on what the customer’s dog needs and not what’s a new product on the shelf. Marcia Cram, Just Fur Pets, Springfield, VA
  • In many ways, we simply can’t compete with internet competition, and we don’t want to alienate the customers who do their shopping online — especially since we use it for ourselves. We kind of think of it like the Miracle on 34th Street thing: We simply cannot carry everything in our stores, and we’re more than happy to point people to the place in town or online that might have what they’re looking for. We can’t be all things to all people, but we can be as helpful as possible. Kris Minkle, The Whole Pet, Fort Smith, AR

This article originally appeared in the September 2018 edition of PETS+.   

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

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Do You Or Don't You

Take Home This Advice from Readers’ Favorite Business Books

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Yes: 63%

  • Business Secrets from the Bible by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. This book changed my whole paradigm concerning money and business. Our current society tries to teach us that business is evil and greedy, draining society of resources. In this book, Rabbi Lapin argues that in reality businesses are a tremendous asset to society by creating jobs and products that improve the lives of everyday people. Business owners are really servants and succeed we they serve the needs of their customers. The book caused me to stop feeling guilty for being a capitalist. Karen Egert, Karen’s Canine Kitchen, Leesburg,FL
  • A Simplified Lifeby Emily Ley. Anytime you can shave a few seconds off the decision making process, you’ve increased your efficiency and simplicity. Those seconds add up to minutes every single day that you can reclaim! Kara Holland, Pittsboro Pet Supply, Pittsboro, NC
  • My most useful tip actually came from WhizBang Retail Training. We do a ton of charity and donations, and we’ve found that including a gift certificate, even if only $10, gets people in the door. Once they come in they usually spend at lest double the gift certificate and almost always come back! Ten dollars well spent in our eyes. Annabell Bivens, The Dog Store by Your Dog’s Best Friends, Alexandria, VA
  • I read about successful companies more than how-to books. Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos, is fantastic. BUILT TO LAST by Jim Collins and Jerry I. Porras is iconic . Successful companies, regardless of type, innovate but don’t stray from their core values. They create a culture around their brand. Independent retailers can and should do this too! It is surely how to remain relevant among big-box stores and the internet. Karen Conell, The Bark Market, Delavan, WI
  • Six-Figure Pet Sitting by Kristin Morrison. I learned so much from this book when I was getting started with my business six years ago, and it still helps me — too much wonderful inspiration to pick just one! Kelly Catlett, Waggs 2 Whiskers, Bagdad, KY
  • Change Your Questions Change Your Life by Marilee Adams. Seems like a no-brainer, but the types of questions you ask others — customers or anyone else —definitely can change your life. Instead of asking questions that can be answered with yes or no, ask questions where a conversation ensues. When the person you are speaking with begins to talk, listen and take note. You can learn a lot in a very short period of time. Cindy Dunston Quirk, Scout & Zoe’s, Anderson, IN
  • Guerilla Retailing by Jay Conrad Levinson, Elly Valas and Orvel Ray Wilson. I reread it when I need a refresher on marketing my business. Nancy Guinn, Dog Krazy, Fredericksburg, VA
  • What Color Is Your Parachute? By Richard N. Bolles. It really got people thinking about how to get out of their current situation and to start thinking about the endgame. Jacqueline Levy, Cross Keys K9, Williamstown, NJ
  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. I read the teenager version when I was younger and it made such an impact on my life. Carrie Hughes, Fido Pet Products, Indianapolis, IN
  • How to Drive Your Competition Crazy by Guy Kawasaki and The Nordstrom Way by Spencer McCarthy. They are great books on selling. The most important thing you do as a small business owner is providing service to your customer. I also read INC. magazine, PET AGE and PETS+ every month for easy to implement ideas. Ramie Gulyas, Follow Your Nose, Evanston, IL
  • You are a Badass  by Jen Sincero The power of meditation and its place in building a successful business is the primary tip I use every day. Wendy Megyese, Muttigans, Emerald Isle, NC
  • Entreleadership by Dave Ramsey. I really try to interview people differently by letting them talk more and me just listening. It really helps you learn more about your potential employee so you make a good decision when hiring someone new! Nicole Olesen, Woofs & Waves, Sioux Falls, SD
  • I prefer company histories and biographies because I find them more interesting and readable. My favorite is American Steel by Richard Preston. The most important lessons I take from it are being open to the unconventional and the power of giving your subordinates clear goals and trusting them enough to stay out of their way while they work to achieve them. Cory Giles, The General Store, Collinsville, IL
  • The Introvert Entrepreneur by Beth Buelow She cites inspiration from a number of people, and I love this quote by Scott Bergen: “The easiest way to be interesting is to be honest. People rarely say what they truly feel, yet this is what audiences desire most.” Maggie Victory, The Whole Pet, Fort Smith, AR
  • Win Forever by Pete Carroll, the coach of the Seattle Seahawks. “It comes down to taking care of the people in your program and making them the best they can be — not giving up on them and never failing to be there for them.” I also follow closely my friend and mentor, Buck Brannaman, who wrote the book Believe (he is also The Horse Whisperer, the movie that starred Robert Redford) and he says, “Recognize the slightest try and reward it.” I find the people who work with me know I want the best for them and allow them to try new ideas, and guess what? They don’t always succeed, but they got to try and feel good about themselves and their job and that they are making a contribution to the success of the store. Pattie Boden, Animal Connection, Charlottesville, VA
  • The Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer. The book contains bite-sized lessons about relating to folks (and it’s pretty darn funny, too). Robin Brown, Manhattan Mutt Company, Manhattan, KS
  • I’m not sure it’s my favorite book, but I just finished Drive by Daniel H. Pink and found it insightful as it relates to hiring minimum-wage employees. Julia Rohan, Rover-Time Dog Walking & Pet Sitting, Chicago, IL

No: 37%

  • Outside of your magazine, I get business inspiration from Inc. Magazine, industry tradeshow conferences, and industry specific Facebook groups. Dana Rice, Dog Wild Pet Supplies & Resort, Cooperstown, NY
  • I do a lot of podcasts so I can multitask! Girl Boss, Profit Boss, Women Entrepreneurs and such! Leel Michelle, Bow Wow Beauty Shoppe, San Diego, CA

This article originally appeared in the July-August 2018 edition of PETS+.

What’s the Brain Squad?

If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. pet business serving the public, you’re invited to join the PETS+ Brain Squad. Take one five-minute quiz a month, and get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the pet industry. Sign up here.

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