Newshound, November 2021
In the spring we started to look at stocking a range of greetings cards. Our criteria were that they had to be blank inside, pet-related and nothing like the cards available in the half dozen or so shops in the town that currently stocked greeting cards. There is no point in competing directly in what is a fairly crowded market. Eventually, we settled on a company called The Little Dog Laughed, which fitted the bill – a range of quality cards based around dogs, cats and rabbits that have a sensible retail point that makes them a simple add-on purchase. The spinner duly arrived and we placed it right in the middle of the shop so it could not be missed, we put one or two on our Facebook page and then…nothing. Well not nothing, but the sales were quite slow, much less than we had anticipated. Come October we needed the space for our Christmas display so the card spinner was demoted temporarily to a space between the dog wormers and the till, some 10 feet or so from their original site. And they started to sell like hotcakes!
I just cannot work out our trading patterns at the moment. Traditionally, we had a steady trade throughout the week and a larger trade on Saturdays. During lockdown that all went topsy-turvy and, like most shops, we ended up with Saturdays being so quiet that we stayed closed on Saturday afternoon. Towards the end of the summer, Saturdays picked up to the extent we started opening again on Saturday afternoons. Now Saturdays are our busiest day again, but with no loss of trade throughout the week despite Saturdays being the traditional day we sold livestock and our last pet sale was 12 months ago. To make things stranger, we are hardly seeing a customer before 11am or after 3.30pm.
A customer was looking to buy a harness and coat that was a perfect fit for his dachshund cross French bulldog. And we found something that worked perfectly. That’s the reason to shop on the high street and not online – customer service.
Online bulk dog food
Yes, I know I’ve raised this issue on more than one occasion and yes, I know that competition is a good thing as it keeps prices down but surely a level playing field is not too much to ask for. And I apologise for singling out one manufacturer as I’m sure many have similar pricing, but: A customer was looking to buy James Wellbeloved Junior 15 kilos and my favourite wholesaler quoted a retail price of £67.99 so I reckoned that I could do it for £60. Unfortunately, my favourite wholesaler does not stock this line in our area so I was forced to buy it online and, believe it or not on many sites the delivered retail price was between £35 and £45. So why would anyone come to me to buy bulk dog food when they can buy it online at virtually trade prices? Some will say don’t bother about what you cannot compete with but this misses the point somewhat. If you sell a premium food people expect to pay a premium price but if that food is sold at a price point of mid-range food then the perception is that it’s not a premium product and therefore does not command its a premium price. Ferrari don’t sell cars at Ford prices.
Like most shops, we are asked frequently about indestructible dog toys but recently I was asked for a soft toy for a puppy that was guaranteed to be indestructible. I did try to explain that soft toy, puppy and indestructible in the same sentence just does not work! Anyway, a toy destroyed is a toy enjoyed.
Like many shop owners, I read with incredulity the story on page three of last month’s pbwnews where a pet shop owner was harassed and abused through no fault of their own, a truly incredible story. Just over two years ago someone who had never visited our shop started a petition online to stop us selling livestock. It was a complete twisting of the facts based on our social media profile. This petition received more than 1,400 signatories from all over the world. Our legal advice was to do or say nothing as suing the person responsible would not only cost a fortune but the publicity would make the situation worse. The lesson we learned was never to post pictures of livestock for sale as it attracts some of the more colourful members of society. While we received a few strange phone calls and media posts, at least no-one actually came into the shop unlike Wayne and Jo Miles, which must have been a frightening experience.