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How independent pet shops can compete with big box stores

How independent pet shops can compete with big box stores

Any animal lover will tell you one thing: their pets are considered family as much as siblings and parents are. Without a doubt, they would also tell you that investing in their pet’s well being is just as necessary as investing in theirs.  In the US alone, pet owners spent about $99 billion on their furry friends in 2020.  

In a highly concentrated industry, independent pet businesses provide their customers with the sort of personalized experience that no big pet retailer can offer. That being said, independent retailers are often limited to smaller retail spaces which also limit the amount of inventory they can hold. 

Despite this, it is far easier for independent pet retailers to restructure their brand strategy to accommodate the growing need for a more personal, customer-focused shopping experience that consumers often fail to find in big box stores.

Below you’ll find some helpful tips to get around limited store space and some great ideas for pet businesses to get you started.

Create a better customer experience

Discover how Lightspeed POS can make your store the pack leader


Create a personalized in-store experience

With the ongoing trend towards the humanization of pets, pet owners increasingly value staff that are knowledgeable when it comes to the pet industry. There’s nothing better for an owner who visits their local pet store with the confidence that they have access to products that are best suited to their pets.

This provides an invaluable customer-centric service that cannot be matched by any big pet brand. Even where the cost of the product is significantly higher, if an owner can see the value it brings to their pet, they might not hesitate to spend. The result? The provision of offering a service that keeps them coming back and increasing your sales. From the pet to the customer to your business—everyone’s a winner.

You may want to consider taking it one step further with a system that can house valuable customer information to show you know and understand the needs of your customer.  Small stores are well-positioned to take advantage of the niche pet market and cater to any particular demand, trend or pain point for pet owners.

Get online

The pet industry has seen huge growth in pet owners purchasing products online, so you should consider not missing out on the opportunity to increase sales and build your brand. And thanks to easy eCommerce integrations with your POS system, it’s never been easier for independent pet stores to get online. By expanding the customer experience to the web, smaller pet stores can reach both prospects and passive customers who are yet to discover their brand.

On your website, you can reach and attract customers you otherwise couldn’t with a brick and mortar store. You can also create special offers and experiences, such as a ‘product of the week’ deal, or offer expert pet advice on your site’s blog. Whatever you choose, an online presence helps promote what makes your brand special.

Get specialized

Pricing is a major selling point for big brands, who can leverage more sales by selling items at a cheaper cost to the customer. But in an age where the customer experience shapes purchasing behavior, pet owners especially are willing to spend more on what’s best for them and their pets. Try offering unique products that customers can’t find anywhere else and avoid dusty inventory by responding to the sales of your bestsellers. 

For pet owners, you can create personal experiences that make customers want to support your brand by making them feel special and part of your community.  Some ideas on how to do this include creating workshops on the weekend and engaging with them directly to understand their pain points, needs and expectations from your store. 


Pet business ideas 

Posh pet boutique

If you want to start a pet clothing and accessories business, you’ll need to either make pet-sized clothes yourself or find a wholesaler that can provide them for you. Should you decide to leave production to yourself, direct selling avenues such as participating in pet fairs or setting up a website are a few of your best options.

Doggy daycare

Children aren’t the only ones who need minding when you’re away—pets also need someone to feed them, clean up after them, and make sure that they don’t wreck your home. Avid pet owners are often drawn to this option because it not only gives them peace of mind, but it also does so without exposing their home to strangers.

Doggy daycares are exactly what they sound like—animals get dropped off in the morning and picked up later in the day, providing them ample time to make friends. Some daycares even provide dog grooming services. To get started, convert part of your home into a daycare center. If you have capital to work with, invest in a commercial warehouse. Just remember, this is a competitive market. Research the competition in your local area to come up with a business plan that is going to set your pet business apart from the rest.

Cat cafe

Similar to doggie daycares, a cat cafe is pretty self-explanatory. People come to enjoy coffee, pastries and other cafe fare, but do so while enjoying the company of many feline friends. Customers can pet and play with the cats in the cafe, and some cat cafes even double as cat adoption centers. If you’re looking to open a cat cafe, be sure to check your local health regulations to find out what measures you’ll need in place to make your cafe a reality. 

Pet bakery

There’s definitely a market for pet treatsjust look at the success of Starbucks’ puppuccino. After some recipe testing, you can open a bakery that offers delicious baked goods and drinks for pets. Make sure that pet owners can order at your storefront or place an order online to maximize your revenue. 


A great time to set up shop 

The pandemic was a boon to the pet industry, adding thousands of new pet owners who will need to care for their pets for years to come. It’s a great time to break into the pet industry, but to do so successfully, you’ll want to have strong tools to help you manage your everyday operations. 

Chat with one of our experts to see how Lightspeed can make your business run more smoothly. 

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More of this topic: Starting a Business