Richard Cotter, executive chairman, Jollyes talks to Justine Thompson
1. Being chairman of a number of major companies in different sectors, how does Jollyes rate in terms of growth potential?
I believe the pet sector is uniquely placed to enjoy a sustained period of growth over the next 10/15 years.
We’ve witnessed two distinct trends through the pandemic period and both will fuel growth in our sector. Firstly, the work-from-home trend has resulted in a significant increase in pet ownership – this will provide a minimum 10-year tailwind for growth. I think the second major trend we’ve witnessed is a move towards experience over consumption. This was prevalent before covid-19, however the pandemic has accelerated people’s behaviour – we’re seeing a significant shift towards family-plus activity, both of which naturally include the pets we love. I am hugely optimistic that the pet sector will continue to grow and flourish in the medium to long term..
2. What gives you the confidence to embark on ambitious plans to open 20 new stores over the next 18 months?
Naturally our view of what’s happening in pet ownership and the more general trend towards family-plus activity is providing the confidence to press the pedal on our growth plans. Whilst we have seen an increase in online pet revenue, naturally during the lockdown periods customers were more reluctant to go to store. Since the ending of lockdown in July we’ve seen our store sales explode with growth as our customers embrace the opportunity to get back to our shops. We see the store portfolio as always being the central heartbeat of the Jollyes business.
3. How will you execute these plans – buy and revamp existing pet stores or build new ones?
I think that both options are attractive. The most important focus for us as we grow our retail base is to ensure that new stores are true to the unique proposition we have at Jollyes.
4. Do you ever look at what the other big pet retail groups are doing?
To be honest, I don’t view the primary focus of any retail business being to challenge other players in the sector on number of stores. At Jollyes we’re focused on our core DNA – we have a unique offer for our customers…we provide incredible VALUE, amazing SERVICE, with a LOCAL pet store feel. My challenge to the business is to constantly drive to be better, to improve our customer offer, to be the best version of ourselves we can be and to consistently delight the many loyal customers who love shopping at Jollyes. That said, I do believe there is a huge opportunity for Jollyes to grow our store-base, even beyond the 20 we have targeted for the next couple of years.
5. How do you make sure that Jollyes sticks to its motto of being ‘The Pet People’?
We pride ourselves on being ‘The Pet People’ and this is an area we will never compromise. It’s impossible to articulate one or two actions that you take to sustain a positioning promise. Building a clear DNA takes years and requires every facet of an organisation to be true to its core beliefs in everything it does. We genuinely put our customers and their pets at the heart of every decision we make, we strive to enhance their experience and want our customers to see us as an integral part of their pet family, offering advice, choice, service, value and a big smile when they come in our front door. Interestingly, the Jollyes’ tag-line ‘The Pet People’ wasn’t originated internally, or by an external marketing company like most tag lines are. We simply asked our customers what they thought of us and how they would encapsulate Jollyes. The answer: “You’re Jollyes…you’re the pet people”.
6. Are you a pet owner yourself?
Right now, unfortunately not, although my six-year-old son is desperate to change this. Over the years I have had both dogs and cats, the most recent being Boris an adorable homeless cat who arrived on my doorstep one cold and snowy December night. He enjoyed a dinner of fresh tuna, adopted me and decided to stay for the next 11 years.
7. What qualities do you bring to your role as chairman of Jollyes?
Wow, that’s really hard to answer. I’m fortunate to be surrounded by an incredibly talented team, all passionate and committed to the vision we have for Jollyes, so as chairman I don’t have to be involved in running the business on a day-to-day basis. That provides me with the opportunity to focus on strategy, people, culture, communication and alignment. I believe my responsibility is to provide an environment that allows the people who work for Jollyes (in whatever role) to flourish and be successful; to help build a culture and a vision which is both compelling and inspiring; then to get out of the way and let the Jollyes team push on and make it happen.
8. Do you think the boom in pet ownership will continue?
The pet sector is in great shape and I don’t see this changing. It’s definitely one of the sectors to have benefited from the impact of the pandemic. Pets have provided an enormous support to people over the last 18 months – fun, laughter, exercise, enjoyment and I guess almost more importantly, stability and help with both emotional and mental health..
9. How do you ensure that Jollyes stores offer something different than other pet retailers?
We are clear on why our customers shop with us and what they love about Jollyes. We offer an unrivalled combination of service and value with a local feel. We put pets at the heart of our business. As long as we stay true to these principles and they drive every business decision, then we will remain the Jollyes that we are today.
10. What other exciting plans can you reveal?
I think all retailers right now in every sector are working hard to understand how the pandemic will shape customer behaviour – and we’re no different. We have mapped the customer journey clearly; we look closely at every customer touchpoint; we strive daily to enhance our customers’ experience. This incorporates every aspect of our business, and we’re investing in almost everyone right now. We’ve got exciting plans to revamp our own label product offer; we’ve invested heavily in enhancing our web offer; we’ve got a rapid existing store upgrade rollout planned, and the initial test stores are delivering incredible like-for-like growth. That’s what I love about working in a retail environment – every day you have the opportunity to make something better and every day you can see an immediate and tangible benefit.