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Wisconsin pet pro never forgets a name or face.

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True Identity: Carmen Alcalde | Co-owner
Base of Operations: Bad Dog Frida, Madison, WI

Carmen Alcalde was born with enhanced visual memory. After seeing a face or name, she can recall its context, even after long periods of time have passed.

Alcalde shares an example: A woman would come into the store once a year, but had not for several. Upon her return, “She said ‘you probably don’t remember me …’ I then instantly remembered her, that she used to visit family each year and loved a Happy Tails shampoo we used to carry. She was quite shocked, especially because she hadn’t been back to Madison for four years.”

Pamela Mitchell is the senior editor at PETS+. She works from her home office in Houston, TX, with Spot the senior Boston Terrier as her assistant.

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This webinar, held on November 7, 2019, is the second in a series from PSC discussing how retailers can establish sustainable practices in their business. Moderated by PSC’s Andrea Czobor, the webinar unveils data behind the increasing consumer demand for sustainable products, what retailers have to gain from connecting with these purpose driven consumers, and a new PSC program that makes finding these products easier for retailers.

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Best of the Best

A Store Markets Bundled Product Packages for Customers’ New Puppies

Paws on Main offers assistance — with product packages, plus referrals to its sister business.

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DOGS PROVIDE UNCONDITIONAL love and companionship. They also can present challenges that pet parents must overcome, from house-training to destructiveness to a lack of leash and other manners.

Paws on Main offers assistance — with product packages, plus referrals to its sister business, A Place for Paws dog day care and training facility.

THE IDEA

Bundle by Problem

Dani Edgerton founded A Place for Paws in 1999. In 2017, she purchased Paws on Main, a retail store just minutes away. It gave her room to stock and sell personally recommended products for common pet health and behavioral issues.

In 2019, Edgerton took her recommendations to the next level after adopting WhizBang! Retail Training’s Retail Mastery System.

“It talked about bundling to upsell,” she says.

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Edgerton created the New Puppy package, as well as Super Chewer and Training for dogs of all ages, with each one outlined on a card with a product checklist on front and training tips on back. She includes touts for A Place for Paws services on both sides.

Per WhizBang!, prices are not discounted. The card simply lists total cost per size of dog.

THE EXECUTION

Provide Focus with Flexibility

Edgerton created the package cards herself. They sit in a Peanuts-inspired holder at the register, within easy reach for staff who are asking customers how they can help.

Pet parents do not have to buy everything on a checklist, which happens regularly with the New Puppy package. “We ring everything up separately anyway,” Edgerton explains. “The card just gives them a guide as they’re walking around the store. Customers will say, ‘I need this and this, but I already have a crate.’”

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Just as pet parents appreciate the flexibility, so does she. It allows her to regularly change the packages. Edgerton may want to introduce a new toy or take away a product not selling well.

“There may be something that we as trainers know is important, but for whatever reason customers don’t want to use. We had Bitter Apple in Super Chewer, but found that they didn’t like the idea or didn’t think they needed it. In that case, it made them less interested in the package as a whole, so we took it out.”

THE RESULTS

Boost in Sales & Referrals

With the packages, Edgerton says, “The average per sale is higher — double or more because of the suggestions, all coming from experts.”

The cards also create a beneficial loop with A Place for Paws. New Puppy includes an invite to the free bi-monthly Puppy Quick Start class. Super Chewer touts its day care as a way to combat destructiveness. And Training outlines the various training programs.

Once pet parents take the free puppy class, Edgerton says, 85 percent sign up for a training program and return to Paws on Main.

“All of those clients come back to the store. It’s a given that they’ll be back.”

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Benchmarks

Pet Pros Give Their Customers the Raw Facts

From displays and signs in-store to webinars and graphics online.

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MANY CUSTOMERS ARE intimidated by the idea of moving their pet to a diet that contains raw and/or fresh foods and supplements. These six pet businesses use a variety of tools to educate pet parents and to promote these types of products.

Fur Baby Pet ResortMILFORD, DE

This display — and star of a Facebook post — encourages customers to supplement kibble with fresh foods or switch to a biologically appropriate diet. Staff rotate the raw and other products regularly, with Primal, Green Juju, Enhance and Vital Essentials making an appearance along with their brochures. Toy fruits, veggies and eggs add to the educational fun. “Most people come to us for our customer services and knowledge, but even we have those who walk in and believe they know better. (People who read headlines and marketing, but not labels.) These displays are perfect for customers like that, as it’s important for us to educate our customers as much as possible, however we can,” Sherry Shupe says. “These types of offerings create loyal customers who trust us to help make the best decisions for their pets.”

Theo Pet GroceryMONTCLAIR, NJ

Owner Gregori Lukas regularly interviews integrative and holistic veterinarians for his YouTube channel and Facebook pages. In this video with veterinarian Melissa Walker, they talk about how her recommendation to feed a fresh food diet improved and extended the life of a senior dog she didn’t think would live more than a few more months. These interviews drive business to Theo Pet Grocery.
“Educational videos on social media allow consumers to become educated even before they step foot in your store. When they hear fresh food is healthy from a veterinarian, they are more likely to be receptive,” Lukas says. “When a customer is receptive, they are willing to shop and support your business.”

Flying M Pet Grocery HOUSTON, TX

Trace Menchaca launched club:RAW in the fall, announcing it on social media and in her newsletter, a charmingly old-fashioned publication written and drawn by hand and printed on paper. Members get personalized feeding plans, 10 percent off all raw purchases, and can attend a monthly in-store club meeting, during which they will meet other raw feeders and get free samples and sneak peeks.

Wags to Whiskers PLAINFIELD, IL

Inspired by Primal Pet Foods’ Build a Better Bowl campaign, this display illustrates how to supplement a kibble-based diet with fresh and raw foods. Each tier represents a different element of the optimized meal: a high-quality dry food, add-ins from the store such as goat milk and bone broth, and add-ins from home such as eggs and fresh fruit and veggies.“Customers like the visual and think it’s an attractive, colorful display,” Janelle Pitula says, adding that “My staff refer to it when trying to assist customers in adding fresh or high-quality ingredients to bowls. This little display has helped a lot … to have one place to go to quickly to allow people to visualize adding in product to make kibble better!”

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Youngblood’s Natural Animal Care Center & Massage GREENFIELD, IN

One of Samantha Youngblood’s favorite resources to share with customers is the Be Your Best Dog: A Guide to Health & Wellness booklet, written by Dr. Chris Bessent, a veterinarian and founder of Herbsmith and The Simple Food Project. “My customers are thinkers and love to research on their own before they buy. I support this and respect them. This book helps with that decision. It is a resource for supplements because of how incredible the book is written, and for nutrition because she touches on the importance of food in regards to many ailments such as allergies and bladder health. I try not to use this book to promote other products, just because it’s not fair to the company, but I guide them into a talk of food — whether that be The Simple Food Project, raw, toppers, etc. This book has been a game-changer with our sales, and I wish more companies would invest the time, effort and money to make similar handouts. Absolutely invaluable.”

Tail Blazers Copperfield & Legacy CALGARY, AB, CANADA

In addition to owning two Tail Blazers, Holly Montgomery works as a photographer. It allows her to create Insta-worthy images like this one, which she uses to educate followers about raw and fresh foods, and to attract customers to her stores. “We very often have people coming in, asking for specific products they’ve seen in our posts,” Montgomery says.
#petfoodpornwithapurpose

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America's Coolest

A Mother-Daughter Duo Brings Southern Hospitality, Design Flair and an Eye For Unique Products to a Pet Boutique

They made their dog boutique an extension of the customers’ homes.

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Southern Barker, Lexington, KY

OWNERS: Leslie Stewart, Sarah Stewart; URL:southernbarker.com; OPENED FEATURED STORE: 2017; EMPLOYEES: 4 part-time; AREA: 1,002 square feet; FACEBOOK: southernbarker; INSTAGRAM: southernbarker


LESLIE AND SARAH Stewart embody the spirit of Southern hospitality. The mother-daughter pair are warm and welcoming, helpful and kind. It comes as no surprise that their dog boutique in Lexington, KY, shares these characteristics.

“We want our customers to feel like Southern Barker is an extension of their home,” Leslie says. “We always try to make them feel comfortable, cared for and respected.”

The duo does exactly that with a combination of stylishly rustic decor, inclusive product offerings, and by celebrating the bond between people and their pets — all with a Southern spin, of course.

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Designing Women

When Leslie and Sarah decided to realize their dream of opening a pet store in 2017, they found an unfinished space in a shopping center. It didn’t even have a floor, just gravel. They hired Cathy Burgess Interiors to design and oversee buildout.

Daughter Sarah and mother Leslie Stewart opened Southern Barker based on a business plan Sarah forged in college.

“She helped make the vision in our heads come to life, and really helped us figure out the Southern Barker brand,” Sarah says, with Leslie adding, “We gave her tons of pictures from Pinterest.”

They also shared human stores in Lexington with their desired aesthetic: artist Rebecca Puig’s Sugarboo and actress Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James.

“Sugarboo is eclectic and rustic. Draper James has a very Southern feel to it. Both both have a touch of elegance,” Leslie explains.

Using the above influences, and pulling from Leslie’s own retail merchandising experience and home decor blogging, the three chose for Southern Barker warm flooring that mimics hardwood, a creamy paint palette and plaid wallpaper. Dark metal chandeliers cast a soft glow.

“And we use furniture instead of store fixtures,” Leslie says. “I found myself literally taking pieces from my home.” Her husband had to ask at one point, “Where’s the foyer table?’”

Displays use straw baskets, iron hooks, wooden ladders and crates, with the “Barker Bar” centerpiece offering bulk treats in old-fashioned glass candy jars.

Big Pups & Dog Dads Welcome

The Stewart family Portuguese Water Dog, Lily, served as inspiration for initial product selection — and continues to guide Leslie and Sarah.

“She was our first female puppy and our first larger dog. We wanted to spoil Lily but could not find what met our style as well as fit her large frame,” Leslie says.

Sarah adds, “We don’t deal with vendors that don’t have big sizes available in their clothes. That way, people with larger dogs won’t be disappointed when they come in and see something they like.”

Among their favorite brands are The Worthy Dog and Hotel Doggy, and stocking them has made Southern Barker the go-to store for stylish big dogs.

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“We actually sell more larger coats than ones in smaller sizes,” Sarah says.

And while dog moms certainly make up a significant percentage of their customers, Leslie and Sarah make sure to have something for dog dads, too.

“We have just as much for the dog dad who fishes and hunts as we do for the dog mom who wants rhinestones,” Leslie says.

Camo-print collars and leashes from Finnegan’s Standard Goods, stuffed ducks and pheasants from Fluff & Tuff, plus collapsable bowls and other gear, are good sellers.

Of course, Southern-themed products are scattered throughout the boutique and regularly make up displays, such as one for the Kentucky Derby. It featured horseshoe bandanas and bow ties from Chloe & Max, a stuffed horse from Fluff & Tuff, plus Kentucky-themed T-shirts, glassware and decorative pillows for humans.

At left, all canine visitors are encouraged to pose for a pic in the dog house. At right, Southern Barker Sweet Tea squeaky toys add to the branding.

The Southern Barker Experience

Every canine customer gets a warm welcome, complete with complimentary treats and an invitation to pose in the Southern Barker dog house, after which their photo goes up on the Wall of Southern Barkers. They can enroll in the birthday club to receive a free bone and special discount, which can be used in the party section or anywhere else in the store. A “Barker of the Month” contest encourages engagement on Facebook.

“We want to make shopping with us an experience,” Leslie says. “Not for them to come in and get their dog food and say see you later. We want people to think of us as more than a pet store.”

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Helping them meet that goal are a variety of celebratory events. Breed meetups, yappy hours and a Kentucky Derby Hat Contest, just to name a few, draw pet parents and their pups, while painting parties give the humans an opportunity to socialize solo with like-minded individuals.

The Stewarts also share in the sad times with their customers.

“I got a phone call from a lady asking me about a pawprint keepsake item,” Sarah recalls. “She broke down crying on the phone, telling me about having to put her dog down. I told her, ‘I really just want to give you a hug right now.’

An hour later she walks in the door and says, ‘I came for my hug.’”

PHOTO GALLERY (16 IMAGES)

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Five Cool Things About Southern Barker

1. SCHOOL PROJECT: Sarah was a senior in college, studying marketing, when she and her mother decided to open Southern Barker. A business plan Sarah developed in school served as starting point for the store.

2. YAPPY HOUR: From 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays, customers get 30 percent off Barker Bar treats. Leslie says, “The margin on bulk treats is pretty good, so we’re not losing money. The discount gets them in the store.”

3. PRIVATE LABEL: Southern Barker has created its own treat and toy lines. Among the offerings are Barker Baked Goods Treats and Sweet Tea Squeaky Toys. The store also has begun making T-shirts, including one that says “Woof Y’all.”

4. EXPANSION: In 2019, a Louisville pet store with two locations went on the market. The Stewarts did an acquisition sale, took over the leases and rebranded the businesses. The new stores had and still have much more of a focus on food. That combined with Leslie and Sarah learning more about nutrition to help their own pets has resulted in the Lexington store now carrying 10 brands of food, including the full Answers line. Leslie says, “We’re really excited to help build the raw community in Lexington.”

5. THE FAMILY THAT WORKS TOGETHER: Leslie and Sarah split their time between the three stores, and dad John, son/brother John and his wife Alex also pitch in as needed. Grandson Elliot is literally growing up in the family business, as he spends weekday mornings with Leslie and Sarah.

 

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