Shop Talk Tadley Pet Supplies

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Shop Talk: Tadley Pet Supplies
9th October 2017

By Sandra Pearce



Andrew Green considers himself very lucky that his passion for banger racing and his pet shop, Tadley Pet Supplies, overlap. We visit to learn more about the daily goings-on at the Hampshire retailer

If you can mix business and pleasure, why ever not? Hampshire retailer Andrew Green absolutely loves banger racing – he used to race in Cornwall himself about 20 years ago – and today sponsors a number of different race meetings as well as 12 cars.

Based in the small village of Baughurst, Tadley, the signage of Tadley Pet Supplies is a common sight on the cars at Spedeworth Motorsports, including the start and finish line at Aldershot Stadium. “My love for racing just carried on, and when a customer started racing, we sponsored his car and it didn’t stop,” he said. His two eldest daughters (aged eight and six) have since been bitten by the racing bug – he suspects his three-year-old son and five-year-old daughter will fall in line!


Note the eggs, plants and apples outside the store!

Last year, Tadley Pet Supplies sponsored the BangerWorld final in Ipswich, the Bears Big Bash in Eastbourne and featured on Motors TV. Oh, it also sponsors Historic Stock Racing. “I’m lucky,” he said, “I’ve got a hobby and pleasure combining with work – this sponsorship is a form of advertising and helps promote the business. We might have a drink before a race and then go and crash a car! It’s great!”

Andrew is a firm believer in trying the unusual and so for the last six years, every Christmas he’s brought in a reindeer from a neighbour who supplies the animals for TV and film work. “A staff member’s husband is Santa, and every child gets a present. It’s not much, just a packet of sweets, but last year we had kids queuing right down the street. They all wanted to see the reindeer and Santa. We must have had about 150 kids.”
The event raised about £1,500 for the First Responders charity.


Every inch is used

Tadley Pet Supplies was founded by his dad Joe Green more than 30 years ago, but was franchised out for a little while until Joe came out of retirement at the age of 77 to kickstart the business. Joe, who had been in the pet trade for 45 years, sadly died on Boxing Day in 2013. Andrew said: “I left school at 16 and my dad was then doing markets, so I decided to join him. I took five years out, but it’s in my blood – like racing – and I returned.”

The shop today comprises three units split across two floors, each about 40’ x 18’, with a warehouse of about the same size off-site. There’s a Tesco Express next door and ample parking, both of which Andrew says are really good for the business. “Tesco take in about £60,000 a week, and that’s all footfall for me. You can work with Tesco. For example, I sell Whiskas at full RRP, but they do not sell as much as me.”


Shop caters to all species, including caged birds

In May, Andrew made the decision to stop selling small animals and birds. “It was costing us £500 a week and not viable. Once you count their food, electricity, staff costs…we are still selling fish though as that’s easier.”
So out went the livestock section and in came freezer upon freezer upon freezer – the store now has 25 chest freezers. Many were freebies, others cost £20. The most expensive was a six-month-old chest freezer from a customer that cost him £100. “I went on to Facebook and said I was looking for freezers,” he said.
At the time of visit, Tadley was selling 1½ to two tonnes of raw every week from manufacturers including Natures Menu, The Dogs Butcher, Paleo Ridge Raw, Poppy’s Picnic Raw Dog Food, Benyfit Natural and Natural Instinct – this is forecast to rise as a number of those newly-acquired freezers were waiting to be filled. The store also sells frozen food for fish and reptiles. “We’re known as being a raw food specialist around here,” he said.

Retailing 24/7
Baughurst may be a small village of 2,400 residents, but the neighbouring Tadley has more than 11,000 people – and the pet store attracts people from further afield. Andrew says they see around 1,000 customers a week. “I like people. I am outgoing and could not work in an office,” he said. “And pet owners like to talk!”


If customers can’t find what they’re looking for, staff can order it in

It is this rapport that is so important for a bricks-and-mortar store, he said, and often conversations cross into the personal side of things. It’s about showing that you are a person, not just a faceless number. “They see us as a family business; it’s about our personality coming through.”

Facebook has become an important point of contact with his customers, and Andrew makes sure he handles all queries quickly. “I do a lot of work on Facebook at night,” he admits, “but business today is 24/7. You get a better business that way, it’s the personal touch. Even if I’m on holiday I take my phone and answer customer queries.”


Andrew was not sure how Lily’s Kitchen would sell because of the price point – and was pleasantly surprised how quickly demand grew

Weekends are, however, kept aside for his young family. “You got to, when they’re young,” he said.
The store offers a very popular no-minimum-order home-delivery service – they deliver everywhere, he says, including further afield to locations such as Wembley, Bicester, Haywards Heath and Watford. One big customer base is to a local poultry club and its members via its Facebook page. Andrew likes thinking outside the box and decided to offer the club a raffle – tickets cost £1 and cash prizes include a £50 first prize as well as £25 to the club. But this means that its members buy their bags of poultry feed from him. “We sell a minimum two tonnes of chicken feed a week,” he said. Now that’s a lot of happy chickens.

He’s also cottoned on to a loophole of sorts with Amazon. Amazon, he says, does not like selling 20kg bags of food probably due to the cost of delivery, and tends to promote 12kg and 15kg bags. So his shop concentrates on 20kg bags and does a roaring trade, especially with free delivery thrown in.


Big bags are a strong seller

“We stock 15 tonnes of food downstairs,” he said. “Our success, it’s all down to parking, price and personality. My dad used to say this, and it’s so true.”
That may be so, but it’s clear in talking to him there is a fourth P.

The fourth P
The internet is a huge challenge for retailers, he says, especially as many traditional pet brands such as Burns and James Wellbeloved can now be found online – and often at cheaper prices. Which is why Andrew keeps a sharp eye for independent specialist brands such as Symply and Canagan, which are not available online or in grocery. He also stocks CSJ which is not readily available. “It’s a good brand,” he said. “I had 56 bags delivered yesterday and am down to 10 already. It’s got no fancy packaging, no reps, just good honest food at a good price.”


Beds and freezers make unlikely companions

In order to create that unique, specialist point, he also introduced an own-brand pet food range. “You’ve got to offer something different,” he said.

He therefore goes to both PATS shows and manufacturer trade shows including Pedigree Wholesale and Bestpets, and sees six to seven reps every week. “I’m always looking for unique products.” 
And there you have the P family formula: Parking, Price, Personality and Products.


Own-brand creates that point of difference

Although there are six Pets at Home within a certain radius of his store, he’s not worried.
“You can work against Pets at Home if you stock smart,” he said. “I also get on really well with the other independents around. We are always helping each other, like if one of us runs out of a product, we’ll send it over.”

It’s also important to plan well in advance. “People are ordering now for Christmas. Mine was mostly done in mid-December last year. I bought when everyone was trying to clear their stock. For instance, toys have no run-out date. So I bought Christmas toys for £2 each, trade price was £7 and retail was £18. This year I shall sell it for £3.99, customers think they are getting a real good deal, I still have good margin. It’s all good PR.”


More and more customers are asking for natural food and treats

Tadley Pet Supplies has good relationships with local vets (their staff buy all their food from him) and groomers, and it sponsors local shows by giving out £5 vouchers. “If you give a dog toy, you won’t see them instore. With vouchers, they have to come to spend and then will probably buy something else.”
He also offers a number of other items not normally found in the pet trade – he sells 200 dozen eggs a week, garden plants, apples and carrots in winter. “Plant sales have a 100% margin, and besides, garden centres sell pet food!”


Delivery service is extremely popular

Innovation is clearly the norm at Tadley – it was the first pet shop to advertise on TV 18-20 years ago, and the first pet shop to advertise in a national newspaper. Today, advertising and promotional activity are all done on Facebook. Andrew is also looking to acquire SQP status for chicken wormers – there’s no point with cat and dog wormers as ‘you can get them everywhere, including Sainsbury’s and pharmacies’.


Shop still sells bread-and-butter tropicals and coldwater fish

“It’s about getting that niche offering,” he said. “The internet is here to stay, Pets at Home is here to stay, you cannot do anything about it.
“You can however choose how you run your business and which direction you take. I want to be a traditional pet shop, but with unique and specialist products.”
Oh, and continue with the banger racing, of course!


CSJ does well, probably because it is not widely sold in other retailers in the area