7 Reasons Shoppers Choose a Pet Store


Do you ever wish you could ask a large group of pet owners exactly why they shop where they do, and what keeps them coming back?

Well, I recently got the opportunity to do exactly that.

I’m part of a very active Facebook group of close to 5,000 dog sports competitors, and last week I asked them whether there was a locally owned pet store near them and, if so, whether they shopped there (and then why, or why not). Here are a few of the biggest takeaways I got from the overwhelming response I received:

1. Service really does matter. 
Again and again people commented that their local store special orders diets for them, knows them (and their pets) by name, took the time to talk through options with them, carries their dog food to the car, is willing to stay open a few minutes past closing time if they call ahead, etc. 

2. So do service hours. 
The biggest reason people gave for not shopping at a local retailer? The stores’ hours. One store was only open Tuesday-Thursday, which made it hard to get to. Another was only open while the respondent was at work, making it impossible to get to. The other major obstacle was travel time—if the closest pet store wasn’t very close, they tended to shop there less often; anything over 20 minutes away seemed to lead a store to become an “occasionally” stop instead of a frequent one.

3. Nutrition was the leading driver of repeat business.
In what is probably a surprise to no one in the industry, many pet owners mentioned that they shopped at independent stores because those were the stores that carried the higher quality diets they wanted to feed, and they could go in and talk with storeowners and employees to get good advice on what to feed. In the words of one pet owner who posted, “I trust their decisions to stock the products they do.” 

4. Not carrying live animals really mattered. 
This one caught me by surprise—numerous people who participated in the discussion called out carrying live animals as a reason they didn’t shop at particular stores; others called out not carrying live animals as a reason they did shop at a store. 

5. If a store supported local community events, that was a big plus. 
Several folks mentioned stores supporting local causes they believed in, sponsoring events, or giving back to local shelters, proving doing good is more than just good for PR -- it leads to real sales dollars down the road. 

6. They trusted independently owned store owners and their employees more.
Several people mentioned that they shopped at a local store because the employees were all very knowledgeable and offered fact-based advice. 

7. The other thing that matters? Parking. 
Not having enough parking space was a major turnoff for shoppers; one woman said she had five locally owned stores nearby and would shop regularly at all of them except one, because they didn’t have a parking lot. Another woman said her locally owned store only had street parking, so she goes to a local big box store instead. 

While several mentioned they don’t shop locally, the vast majority said they shop at locally owned stores at least occasionally and many said they shop at locally owned stores almost exclusively. This just goes to show that even pet owners who are very active online are still attracted to shopping face-to-face. 
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