Pet adoption and fostering was on the rise during the coronavirus pandemic, and the American Pet Products Association reported the industry exceeded $100 billion in annual sales for the first time in 2020. Were those trends evident in sales at Fetch?
Outside of the stay-at-home order month, we had growth every month compared to the previous year. One of our best years ever. We were up about 25%-30%.
Multiple studies also found a boom of online pet food sales that started during shutdown orders. Does that increasing shift to online concern you?
I have always felt like online shopping is my biggest competitor. I don’t necessarily try to compete with the big box stores in town. I feel like a lot of people that shop online also are looking for more unique products or harder to find items. We have people that are in our store once a week, but yet they’re still getting their food delivered. It’s definitely still a constant battle of trying to get them to kind of see that light, like it all makes a big difference for your local stores.
What products do you offer that draw pet owners into your brick and mortar?
We definitely really focus on having knowledge about our products. We all have a lot of experience with animals. A lot of people feel comfortable knowing that they don’t necessarily need to research it because I’ve already done the homework for them. If I won’t give it to my own pets, there’s no way I’m selling it in my shop. One of the things that really surprised me when I opened the store was how popular the birthday stuff is. People love coming in for the little special treats, the baked goods and the party hats, or just bringing their dog in for that occasion. It’s just a huge part of our business. A lot of people will come in because they heard that they can get birthday stuff at our store, then they start looking around. A lot of our customers, once they come in, they almost always come back. And our self-service dog wash is actually one of my biggest draws.
What products have the best margins?
The toys and treats. Food is like my lowest margin. I guess it’s probably like the milk of the grocery store. It’s great because it keeps them coming in consistently, but you don’t really make a lot of money with that.
What kind of operational changes did you make in the past year to meet the moment in retail?
We’ve always offered curbside and delivery, but we definitely ramped it up just like everybody did. We’ve done more of the ready-to-go kits. We put together a chewers bag special last spring and that led into Easter baskets. We’ve just continued throughout the year.
In the pet industry, and retail in general, what changes made over the past year do you see sticking?
People are spending more time with their pets. During the summer, we sold so many more life jackets and outdoor tools – whether it’s leashes, harnesses – because people were just getting outdoors more with their pets. People took more of an interest in about what their pets are eating and what they’re actually giving to them, maybe because they were stuck at home with their animals. I’m hoping that those trends do continue, that people continue to spend more time with their pets and kind of take more of an interest in what they’re actually giving them on a day-to-day basis.
Jennifer Silverberg can be reached at email@example.com.
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