Managing director of PetPlace talks to pbwnews editor Justine Thompson1. When did you join PetPlace and what were you doing beforehand?
I joined PetPlace in 2000 and was previously working in the retail sector for Spar.
2. Tell us a bit about the company – when was it established and how many stores does it have?
The company was established in 1970 and was predominantly farm-focused but since taking over as MD, I’ve made the change in the company to be fully focused on pets and their parents. We currently have five retail stores and an e-commerce website.
3. As you’ve been with PetPlace for more than 20 years, what’s been your motivation to stay there?
The team and the change within the industry with the motivation to constantly bring something new, different and exciting into our stores.
4. Have you seen many changes in the pet industry in the past 20 years?
There have been a lot of changes and I feel it’s an industry that continues to change. There has been a definite move towards pet wellbeing, and for somebody who is interested in wellbeing for themselves and others, being able to look at that for pets is a big change we’ve noticed and been keen to be a part of. Another thing would be the way consumers have changed their pet ownership into viewing their pets as one of the family.
5. Why did the company rebrand from Farm and Pet Place to PetPlace?
Because we noticed a change within the industry and market and we wanted to ensure the business was in a position to move in line with those changes. Although we have been trading for many years, we felt it was the right time for the business to have a new feel and look that fits with today’s consumers.
6. Is staffing important to the firm and how do you go about recruitment and retention?
Yes, it is hugely important, as without the team we don’t have a business. We recruit in many different ways including our own ATS system, job boards, and agencies, along with recruiting within and allowing progression for our existing team. We like to think of the team as part of the family. We operate an open-door policy so everyone has access to the directors/shareholders. We try to be a company that rewards and supports the team and provides those added perks along the way that make us different.
7. How did the coronavirus pandemic affect your plans? Your biggest challenge?
The coronavirus pandemic changed our plans massively. With an original intention of developing the retail stores before the website. We had redevelopment and growth plans for the web over the next five years but these have now been brought forward. That has allowed us to develop our offering online by investing in technology and the new site dedicated to our web dispatch team. The biggest challenge was the initial uptake online and ensuring that our teams were all equipped. We had to make sure they had the support to be able to continue operations working from home and that our in-store team felt that we had reacted quickly enough and put enough precautions in place to deal with the changes happening around us.
8. The company seemed to evolve and even grow during the pandemic…how did you achieve that?
Investment was a major thing for us. We put in place new technology to facilitate working from home where possible, new traffic light systems on our entrance doors to limit the flow of people in our stores at any one time and, of course, all of the necessary kit in-store to provide protection for both our team and customers. We also swapped to a click-and-collect model overnight to enable continuation of service whilst we put the necessary physical measures in place.
9. What or whom has been your inspiration in the pet industry?
Inspiration for us has come from our goal to achieve new things for the company and for the team that drives our company to achieve something different.
10. Have you always loved animals and do you have any pets yourself?
Yes, I’ve always loved animals and have my little boy Rocky, who is a five-year-old English Bulldog who rules the roost and, of course, holds the title of chief product sampler (which he carries out extremely well).