News On To A Winner With A One Stop Shop For Pets

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On to a winner with a one-stop shop for pets
22nd May 2020

By Neil Pope

Paula Machin had always dreamed of owning a pet store but it wasn’t until the right premises became available three years ago that she decided to take the plunge.

The mum-of-two admits it was tough going to establish the Pet Stop in the small town of Market Deeping in South Lincolnshire but despite some challenging times her business is now showing year-on-year growth. 

In fact, as well as posting impressive financial figures, the Pet Stop has won a local Retailer-of-the-Year award and made it to the final of the 2020 Pet Industry Federation Awards.

Paula, 37, has always loved animals. She grew up with rabbits, hamsters and a Springer Spaniel, so it was hardly surprising when as a teenager she got a job in the pet section at Waterside Garden Centre near Peterborough.

“I’ve worked in the pet industry for 20 years – now I feel old – and I’ve loved every minute of it,” said Paula. “Even when I worked at the garden centre I dreamed of one day owning my own pet store. But the timing never seemed to be right and then I started a family.

“After having my two children, Ted, six, and Evalyn, five, the perfect premises came up. I decided it was now or never and went for it.”

Tucked away on an industrial estate, Paula initially found it hard to attract customers to the Pet Stop so she was forced to invest in local advertising. Once word got round about a new pet shop in the area, customers started to arrive in numbers.

ALADDIN’S CAVE

“It is very much an Aladdin’s Cave – people don’t realise how big and how well stocked it is until they come and visit. Most people’s first words are ‘wow’, which is lovely,” said Paula.

“I’m incredibly proud of how the business has grown and I’m always keen to expand the shop’s stock. We started with one freezer of raw pet food and now have seven, with plans for more.”



The Pet Stop is focussed on stocking natural products and doesn’t sell brands normally found on supermarket shelves. As well as 

having a passion for raw foods, Paula tries to stock products from small independent suppliers to stand out from the crowd. 

“People get bored with the same products,” she said. “Our toy range constantly changes to keep a great variety.

“We also focus on the accessories side as these are things most people want to look at and touch, not buy online. We have more than 25 different ranges of harnesses in store and offer a fitting service too.”

Value for money is a key component of Paula’s strategy and she offers very competitive prices on all products. The store gives a discount on bulk raw orders to tempt people away from online ordering and a loyalty card is planned for later this year.

As well as competitive pricing, how else does Paula keep her customer base happy?

CUSTOMER FOCUS

“Customer service is what keeps our regulars coming back for more,” she says. “My staff and I are very customer focussed and will happily spend an hour with a customer if they need it. We know most customers by name now and consider some of them our friends.

“We attract most new customers by word of mouth. People have such a lovely shopping experience here they tell all their friends to come. The comments, reviews and posts we receive on social media are amazing and genuinely make our day. 

“Our social media is also a massive advertising platform for us. We have a good mix of informative posts, selling posts and funny posts. My staff are always up for a laugh and we often post videos of us doing something stupid. Our customers love the interaction and I think it makes us more approachable.”

One advantage of the Pet Stop being located on an industrial site is there are plenty of parking spaces, enabling customers to load their cars easily.

Customers are also attracted by the expertise and knowhow of Paula and her two members of staff – Kimberley Stray and Gregg Ambrose. 

Paula has a distinction in City & Guilds Pet Store Management and Animal Management and OATA aquatic qualifications. She’s also a qualified microchipper and an AMTRA approved SQP for companion animals.

Kimberley has worked in a pet shop for seven years and has diplomas in animal care. She is always the first on the floor with any dog that comes into the store with its owner, giving treats in exchange for tricks.

Gregg, who has worked in the pet industry for five years, was formerly a zoo-keeper and his reptile knowledge is an invaluable asset.

“We love to give advice to our customers but we don’t rest on our laurels. We are constantly trying to improve our knowledge – in fact we are being trained by a local dog trainer at the moment,” says Paula.

“Kimberley and Gregg are my biggest asset and I try to reward them as much as possible. I believe happy staff want to perform well for you and go above and beyond.”

Paula and her team are always looking at ways to enhance the appearance of the 200 square-metre store.

CREATIVE DISPLAYS

“The shop is mostly made up of metal racking but this didn’t suit our huge range of natural treats so I had the idea of making a big stand from old potato crates. It looks brilliant and shows the natural and rustic idea perfectly. 

“Our reptile room is also a big achievement – the ceiling is covered in fake plants and the room is painted dark with black shelving and spotlights to give it a jungle feel. I’m always trying new display ideas around the store.”

The Pet Stop won a local business award in 2018 and has made it onto the shortlist for Retailer-of-the-Year in the 2020 Pet Industry Federation Awards.

“To win the Deeping Business Award just a year after opening was a brilliant achievement, and to be a finalist in the PIF Awards is such an honour. To be named winner would be a genuine career high, we would honestly be over the moon, what an amazing achievement it would be.”

Paula is immensely proud of her team’s achievements in such a short space of time, and says there’s lots more to come. “We are a young, fun team often posting videos on social media, doing silly things. People relate to us.”

COPING WITH CORONAVIRUS

The Pet Stop adapted its operations during the coronavirus crisis. 

Paula says: “We offered free delivery locally and where possible encouraged people to order over the phone. 

“We have a set of double doors at one end of the store and this is normally used for deliveries. There is a single door the other end which is the entrance. We removed a windowpane from the double doors and installed a doorbell. Customers then approached this window, ordered their items, and then waited for them to be delivered. They paid for the items at the single door, using their credit or debit card.

“This kept contact to an absolute minimum and our customers commented that it was a good system.”