Canadian Business Franchise
- Publication Canadian Business Franchise
- Date December 19, 2012
- Partner Bosleys Pet Food Plus
Canadian Business Franchise magazine helps entrepreneurs find top franchise opportunities across Canada – from Vancouver to Toronto to St. John's.
Franchising in the pet retail industry
Contributed article by Chanelle Dupre
Pet parenting is a serious responsibility. People’s lives change when they add a new four-legged member to their family. Their routine begins to involve making trips every week to the local store to buy food and supplies for their growing animal. In some cases, pet owners are known to visit their favourite store 15 times a month!
Today’s owners seek not only a large selection of brand-name products, but also the best nutrition in pet foods, trending toward natural and holistic diets. They will go back to specialty stores that offer good deals and helpful educational resources. The better the product selection and the shopping experience, the more likely they are to become loyal customers.
Even when retail in a general sense has been hit hard by an economic downturn, pet specialty retail chains have continued to thrive, through unique market positioning and a community-based approach.
Choosing a business model
A number of business models exist in the pet industry, ranging from corporate-owned and -controlled big-box stores to small, independent boutiques. The model you choose will ultimately depend on what type of entrepreneur you are, how much outside support you will need and how much capital you bring to the table. Many businesspeople with limited capital or experience will opt for a franchise or an independent operation.
Franchising has proven a solid option for entrepreneurs exploring the specialty pet retail model, offering such benefits as a recognizable brand name, an existing customer base, support systems, access to vendors and marketing programs to build further awareness in each community.
Striking out on your own as an independent pet specialty retailer allows significant flexibility in creating your own product mix, carving out your own place in the market and gaining full control of your destiny—but you can also be at a competitive disadvantage, due to a lack of marketing and operations support, limitations on your access to a large number of vendors or suppliers and an inability to reduce wholesale costs because of your smaller volume buying.
For most franchisees in this field, the decision to open a new business is not simply about making money, but about their genuine passion to connect with the community, help customers solve their problems and fulfil their pets’ needs. By offering more shopping options in their neighbourhood, however, they can also take full accountability for and control of their future and maximize their financial returns.
Jordan Roberts and Ryan Wilson, for example, were both animal lovers when they became franchisees, but neither had experience running his own business. While Roberts had managed a pet food store, Wilson was a sales manager for an automotive dealership.
Nevertheless, the two friends jumped at the opportunity to work together and open a new pet specialty store in downtown Victoria. They wanted to enrich their lives by benefiting from the emotionally rewarding experiences offered by the pet industry. They also were confident in franchise support structures, which made their decision easier, and knew they could succeed.
The idea of striking out on your own to develop an entirely new company can be very appealing, but many entrepreneurs—including Roberts and Wilson—do not feel prepared to face the many challenges that could arise or to work the tireless hours it would take to create a new brand from the ground up. Instead, they love the idea of building upon an established, recognized name with proven business practices and a strong appeal to customers.
With the right in-store product assortment, for example, retailers are better able to absorb fluctuations in the market caused by tough economic times or changes in consumers’ shopping patterns.
All of these factors help translate into stronger business success. That said, even if you decide to join a well-established pet specialty retail franchise chain, you cannot simply sit back and expect loyal customers will suddenly start frequenting your new store.