News Shop Talk Pampurredpets



Shop Talk: PamPurredPets
18th May 2015

By Sandra Pearce

PamPurredPets in Wantage, Oxfordshire, opened in late 2013, and it’s already a firm favourite with customers. Area manager Kelly Pont has recently received her 20-year long-service award, and she reveals what it’s like being part of a 48-strong (and growing) chain

PamPurredPets in Wantage may be part of a chain of pet stores, but it is very much Wantage’s local pet store. “It’s all about our staff getting to know our customers, and being your local store, even though we are part of a chain,” said area manager Kelly Pont.

“My team get to know their regulars and their pets, and it’s ‘How’s your dog doing?’ or ‘How’s your hamster?’. For instance, when we sell animals, we do follow-up calls about a week later and ask how the new pet is settling in. This gives the customer the opportunity to ask any questions they may have. Our aim is to build up a relationship with our customers and their pets so when they come into one of our stores, we recognise them and can engage with them and ask questions like ‘What have you called your hamster?’ ”

Kelly began working with Pets Village in Bitterne, Southampton, and joined PamPurredPets when the shop was acquired by the chain in 1997. She has risen through the ranks and is now area manager, covering 14 stores along a corridor from Southampton up through Oxfordshire.

The Wantage store opened just before Christmas in 2013, and business has been slowly growing. Word of mouth is probably doing its part here, says Kelly. “I’d like to think our good name is travelling – our reasonably priced products, good range and well-trained, friendly staff giving really good customer service.”
There is certainly a friendly atmosphere instore, with mums visiting just to look at the animals with their children.

The store is located in a retail park, whose anchor tenant is a Sainsbury’s, and includes an Argos, Family Bargains, New Look and B&M store. Competition is keen. “We try and offer products you cannot get elsewhere,” she said, adding that some customers only want grocery brands and prefer to buy these from supermarkets, whereas PamPurredPets sells a large range of premium brands which are in high demand. “We also offer a price promise; if the customer finds a product cheaper in the local area, we will price match.”

In a sign of the changing times perhaps, whereas promotions were once organised around seasonal displays, nowadays they tend to be product led, and invariably involve bulk displays. “This is what attracts people,” she explained.

The biggest change she’s observed over the years is the increasing knowledge of customers and trends in dog food. “Years and years ago pet owners did not have the choice they have today when it comes to food, with only a couple of brands to choose from and, of course, the knowledge was not there at that time. Now that people know the importance of good nutrition, they are more than happy to spend more on their pets to make sure they are happy and healthy.”

The Channel Five documentary on dog food certainly opened many owners’ eyes into what they feed their dogs. “Without that programme, BARF would not have taken off the way it has. I was here on the Saturday morning after the documentary and I noticed people were looking at high meat foods and reading the ingredients, and I asked them if it was because of the programme, and they said ‘yes’.”

At Wantage, James Wellbeloved and Burns are strong sellers, and the Burns sales rep takes a lot of time on product training with their staff.

The store has another advantage over its competitors (Pets at Home is about 10 miles away) in that it normally sells caged birds such as canaries, budgies, finches and cockatiels, all from local breeders. However, they were all sold out at the time of our visit.

“There is a shortage of birds,” said Kelly. “Quite often if I have a good local breeder, I might buy all of the birds and transfer them to another store. I think birds are definitely coming back up and becoming more popular. And because not many pet shops sell them, when you get stock in, they go really, really quickly.”

A bird’s eye view

At PamPurredPets, says Kelly, each individual shop has a certain degree of autonomy, which is crucial to ensure each store manager can respond best to his/her unique customer base and local influences. For example, although product lines are decided at head office, managers are encouraged to come up with new ideas for lines, and the company also listens to what the customers are asking for.

“You need good managers who know their stock, who know what’s selling, what’s not,” she said.

There is clear structure at PamPurredPets, which first saw light of day in 1981, in Ferndown, Dorset. In a nutshell, potential new store locations are sourced by founder and managing director Steve Fowler.

Once the store plans are drawn up, it is down to the merchandising team (made up from store managers) to go in and create the store environment. Although all stores sell the same lines, each store is treated individually in terms of layout so as to make the most efficient use of space.

As such, stores tend to have similar layouts – all will feature promotions on their end gondolas, and dump bins in front of the cash counter. All are sparkling clean, bright, airy and well laid-out. “We would not want to shop in supermarket that is dirty, so why be different for a pet store?” asks Kelly.

Promotions run for eight weeks, and are changed across all stores on specific dates. And individual stores can run specific events such as accommodating animal charities who can put up a table in store, or pet photography.

As with all independents, PamPurredPets is at the mercy of the changing pet landscape. At the moment, raw meat is doing very well, as are the high-meat and grain-free ranges.

Apart from core super premium food brands, PamPurredPets carries unique lines including the Czech Republic’s Brit, Petit and Carnilove ranges, which are also sold in Just for Pets. It also has its own range of Fab foods as well as exclusive pet accessories.

As a group, PamPurredPets is continuously investing in its stores and its people. For instance, it has installed the new Casco small animal enclosures in a number of its stores, which has resulted in increased sales of livestock. It is also using pioneering face detection technology to gather demographic information about its customers, and is planning on launching a fit club for dogs.

The chain will expand to 54 branches by the end of year in the south, south-west and south Wales after securing £250,000 from HSBC.

The company has five area managers headed up by the retail operations manager Karen Roy. She said: “I have been with the company for 11 years, and it has been both exciting and rewarding to play a part in the expansion of PamPurredPets. We are so proud to be part of so many communities where we are able to help and advise our customers on their pets’ needs and welfare. The future is looking bright for PamPurredPets; we are looking forward to opening many more new stores in the coming years.”