Pets Pantry is located in the busy Lincolnshire market town of Market Deeping. Jayne Tattersall bought the shop four years ago, and says she loves every minute of it…
When it comes to location, you could not pick better. Pets Pantry is a long-established pet shop in Market Deeping; one of its windows looks on to the high street, next to a bus-stop, and its main entrance is on a pedestrianised cut-through between this main road and the car park of a Co-op store.
Neighbours include a very popular butcher and a café opposite, run by a pastry chef who is well-known for her pastries and celebration cakes. In summer, the walkway is filled with chairs and tables as customers enjoy their coffess and teas, creating a fantastic ambience, said Pets Pantry owner Jayne Tattersall. “We are very lucky to have this position,” said Jayne, who runs the shop with her husband Roger.
Jayne (left), Roger and Sue
Jayne took over the shop as a going concern four years ago. Roger is a retired golf professional and they had been in the golf trade for 30 years, with Jayne also coming from a background with high-street retailer M&S. The recession hit the leisure trade very hard, and Jayne was looking for something different that would interest them.
“I have always been interested in animals, dogs predominantly, and we were looking for a pet business to buy, and then this one came up,” she said.
Pets Pantry had already been around for about 20 years, and the then-owner was selling as she wanted to concentrate on her other business.
The store itself was well-run and had a good customer base. It was perfect, said Jayne. “It was really only for us to keep up the good work.”
Entrance to shop opens onto cut-through
That may be so, but it was still a bit of a culture shock. She said: “If you work in a big company, chances are you are either in accounts, sales or marketing, but in a small business, you have to do a bit of everything, doing the books, promoting the shop, selling, all things. These four years have been interesting, a really big learning curve. Such as learning about the right things to buy and not to waste money! You can think at the time, what a good idea, but then you realise it’s not!”
The most important thing is to listen to customers and be guided by what they want, she said.
A window into people’s lives
Listen. Listen to what products people want. Listen to the challenges and issues they are having with their pets. Listen as they talk about their families. Listening creates relationships, builds loyalty and fosters community spirit.
Pets Pantry has a reputation for its nutritional expertise
Sue Andrew works at Pets Pantry two days a week when Jayne and Roger are off (the store is open six days a week). She said: “People seem to have a good sense of humour; I don’t know whether it’s because they own pets. We will have a laugh with each other, they are all just nice people.
“Next thing you know, they tell us all about their families, and the pictures come out. People who have animals are genuinely nice people.”
Pets Pantry has a large, loyal customer base, says Jayne, and there is this real community feel. “It is so strong that if somebody does not come in on their usual day, we think, are they all right? It’s really lovely here, we have got to know lots of people.”
Raw was one of her best decisions, says Jayne
Jayne and Roger lost Callum, their Border collie last year. “We had cards and so many flowers, we ran out of vases at home. People were so kind and lovely, the community feel about the place is amazing.”
Pets Pantry sponsors a number of local events including local dog and horticultural shows. Jayne also advertises occasionally in the local magazines. She also has a strong network with other pet services including dog trainers, a hydrotherapy pool and the vets. “We’re constantly referring customers from one to the other,” she said. For example, with some behavioral issues, the trainer will suggest the owner ‘get the food sorted first’, and likewise if an owner comes in looking for a muzzle or harness, she might recommend they go for one-on-one sessions with a trainer first.
Shop actually occupies two units on the high street
The shop is seldom quiet – though it’s not always filled with paying customers because sometimes dogs will bring their owners in as all dogs know they get a treat once inside. And then there’s Bliss, the Tattersall’s 10-year-old Border collie, the self-designated chief ‘meeter and greeter’ who is not at all shy about dropping her stuffed toy crocodile at your feet, expectant that you’re going to throw it for her to catch.
Sue said: “This is such a busy shop, but somehow we always get everything done; we are never bored!”
Jayne added: “Sometimes we think, oh, it’s gone very quiet, and then it’s almost as if a coach has pulled up outside. You envisage this organised, profitable business, and then it all turns to havoc, with people playing with the dog, chatting – but we love it. We go home and think we are very lucky.
Cosy selection of beds
“I like working Saturdays because there is the hustle and bustle , and then if we have had a really busy day, at the end I can say, ‘oh the weekend’s here’ because we have Sunday and Monday off!”
Raising the bar
People want advice, says Jayne, especially as they are more aware of the food they eat themselves and of what they are giving their pets. “If they have a healthy diet for themselves, they want to give it to their animals too,” she said. “People like natural, and that’s what we give them.”
Jayne has had a long interest in pet nutrition and has always fed her dogs raw, saying it has ‘never been as easy to feed raw as it is now’. “I was keen to introduce raw when we came in, and it’s one of the best things we have done,” she said. “We also promote natural foods as I do not want to sell products that I would not feed my own animals.
Canagan, Green Pantry and Nutram are good cat sellers
“It is very rewarding, especially when people come in and say what a difference the food has made to their animals, whether it’s their behaviour, skin or coat. We also have a lot of people come here because they have been to the larger multiples and did not get the advice they need.”
A number of customers now come to Jayne for advice about nutrition and certain problems such as itching and scratching before seeing their vet, she says. “People do like to think they will try something else first before going to the vet. We do what we can if it is fairly simple, for example ‘My dog is itching and scratching’. But clearly if it is more serious, we recommend they see the vet.”
Customers like weigh-up wild bird food
She remembers one customer who came in looking for a shampoo and oils for her dog, which had a skin condition. On chatting with her, Jayne encouraged her to try a different food brand, saying the food might clear the condition up without any other intervention. “It worked,” said Jayne, “something as simple as changing the food.”
Needless to say, dog food is a big seller, with brands including Symply, Canagan, Green Dog, Arden Grange and Burns filling her shelves. “I like Green Pantry, Symply and Canagan,” she said. “I like to support those who are supporting us and the independent trade. I do not see the point in stocking items that supermarkets stock; it’s totally pointless.”
Natural goes down a treat!
Cat food sales are dominated by Canagan, Green Pantry and Nutram. Nutram sales have dipped since the manufacturer stopped selling small bags and now its smallest size is 1.8kg.
“Unless someone has a multi-cat household, they won’t buy it now, it’s too big. And cats are more fickle than dogs, people prefer to buy small quantities in case they go off it and so they tend to chop and change brands. With dogs, once they get on something, they tend to stay with it.”
Every inch is used, including floor for display of bowls
Sue’s area of specialty is small animals, and they have grown this section and added a large selection of Rosewood Naturals and use Mr Johnson’s as weigh-up, because of its added Verm-X. “We’re looking at the nutrition for small animals too, and not just cats and dogs,” said Sue.
Small animals are popular in the area. She added: “We have some customers who have a house full of gerbils, so they buy 12.5kg bags of gerbil food. We’ve also had requests for ferret food and treats, which we now carry.”
Demand for small animal food and products has been growing
One of the biggest challenges the team faces is the lack of storage. Everything that arrives pretty much goes straight on to the shelves.
Jayne does not have an EPoS system as they have got stock-taking ‘down to a tee now’ as they generally break the store down into sections and each has their own section. She also does not have a Facebook page or web page. “I like to talk to my customers face to face,” she said. “I like the old-fashioned feel of the business. Maybe one day I will be dragged into the 21st century, but at the moment, I am happy where I am – I would rather talk to my customers face to face. People come in here for advice, as a first port of call.”
Healthcare is popular