10 Retailers Honored at Global Pet Expo
The Retailer Excellence Awards recognize outstanding independent pet specialty retailers in a variety of categories.
Holistic Pet Cuisine Market, Dog Krazy and Healthy Spot took the top honors at the eighth-annual Retailer Excellence Awards presentation. The awards ceremony was hosted by Pet Business magazine and the organizers of Global Pet Expo (GPE), and was followed by the Retailer Roundtable Discussions—a new addition to this year’s show—where GPE Academy speakers and past Retail Excellence Award winners facilitated peer-to-peer roundtable conversations about the hottest topics.
Each year, the Retailer Excellence Awards recognize outstanding independent pet specialty retailers in a variety of categories, including two new categories in 2019—Best Ecofriendly Retailer and Best Internet Marketing. The full list of winners includes:
BEST SINGLE STORE RETAILER
Holistic Pet Cuisine Market
Boca Raton, FL
BEST MULTI-UNIT RETAILER (2-14 Stores)
BEST MULTI-UNIT RETAILER (15+ Stores)
Culver City, CA
BEST MULTISERVICE RETAILER
BEST LIVE ANIMAL RETAILER
BEST MERCHANDISING/STORE DESIGN
COMMUNITY SERVICE/OUTREACH & PARTNERSHIP
Sun Prairie, WI
BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE
BEST ECOFRIENDLY RETAILER
BEST INTERNET MARKETING
This year’s winners were ecstatic to be recognized for their hard work and dedication to the pet specialty industry.
“I started to tear up because this was for all the animals that we helped over the last 12 years,” said Barbara Ratner, founder and owner of Holistic Pet Cuisine Market in Boca Raton, Fla. “It brought great joy knowing that we are truly recognized in our community and beyond.”
The inspiration for Holistic Pet Cuisine Market came after Cuddles (Barbara and her husband Howard’s cat) passed away due to renal failure caused by poisonous gluten in cat food during the recall of 2007. Barbara and Howard wanted to give back to other pet parents by making sure animals received the best diets available.
“We literally go through every ingredient that customers are giving their pets, and we make sure that the diets include all the necessary supplements to keep pets strong and happy,” said Ratner.
In the 12 years since the store opened, Ratner has seen tremendous growth, as well as higher standards in regards to safe and healthy ingredients.
“It is so rewarding to be able to encourage customers to switch their pets to a healthy and holistic way of life,” she said.
Mounds Pet Food Warehouse in Sun Prarie, Wis. is dedicated to its customers and the local community. The five-store operation hosts multiple pet-related events each year, including the Mounds’ Dog Fest which brings 5,000 to 8,000 people together from humane societies, rescue groups, pet food vendors and local pet-friendly businesses.
"Heading into our 23rd year [of Dog Fest], we continue to be committed to the nonprofits in our community to help Mounds help pets,” said Michelle Mitchell, purchasing manager for Mounds Pet Food Warehouse. “As an event for dog lovers, we have seen it grow with new shelters and rescues attending, along with participating Mounds’ vendors.”
The company coordinates this event to spread awareness about the pet organizations throughout the community and bring new information to the public.
“Helping your community only makes it, and in turn your customer base, stronger,” said Mitchell.
Another key part to becoming a successful pet specialty retailer is great design.
The Modern Paw, in Tampa, Fla., underwent a full overhaul of its store in 2018.
“We underwent a full build-out of our new store during the majority of 2018, which took much longer than anticipated. So, finding out that we won a Retailer Excellence Award made us feel that all of our hard work and stresses of 2018 were well worth it and recognized,” said Ben Prakobkit, co-owner of The Modern Paws.
Ben, and his co-owner/wife Lisa, used their experience as consumers to guide the design of their store.
“We took key design points that we gathered from shopping at upscale electronics and clothing retailers, fine dining restaurants, modern home designs, and even modern exotic vehicle designs,” said Ben.
Ben and Lisa also make sure to look out for their customers by only carrying products that meet their criteria.
“We specialize in natural pet nutrition, and the choice of products we carry in store clearly show it,” says Ben.
The winners of the two new award categories added this year—Best Internet Marketing and Best Ecofriendly Retailer—were excited to be recognized in areas that have become so important in today’s retail environment.
“We couldn’t feel more thrilled!” said Melissa Whitton, president of Most Valuable Pets in Lexington, Ky. “There are so many wonderful ecofriendly businesses out there, we are just so blessed to have been selected.”
Most Valuable Pets is one of 11 businesses in Lexington that were selected this year as members of Green Check—the city’s sustainability certification program. Since the program was founded, only 32 businesses have earned this certification, which recognizes businesses for their green initiatives and helps them expand their sustainability efforts.
“Being green is very important to us,” said Whitton. “Most of our employees are millennials, and green issues are very important to them. We work together to help our community, reduce our carbon footprints and do our part with conservation efforts.”
As millennials continue to become an overwhelming force among the pet retail customer base, internet marketing has become a necessity for retailers. So, the ability of The Animal Connection in Charlottesville, Va., to reach its customer base via social media and internet marketing has been invaluable.
“We’ve worked really hard to learn how people of all ages interact with social media and internet marketing, and we are seeing the results come through for our business,” said Pattie Boden, owner of The Animal Connection. “It’s great to be honored for our hard work in this area.”
The retailer utilizes social media in a major way with interactive content and compelling, yet informative posts.
“Our ‘What’s Barkin’ Local’ weekly web show is the first of its kind and each week is viewed across a network of 350,000 viewers,” said Boden. “We plan to keep this web series going weekly and will be adding local, regional and product sponsors to our show.”