Building a Better Staff

The Pet Store Pro free online retail training program puts a team of experts within reach for pet specialty retailers.





Pet retail is a labor-intensive business. As an owner, you pour your heart and soul into making your store profitable and ensuring that your customers and their pets receive the very best care. In addition to sales and service, you’re responsible for everything from business planning and development to maintaining inventory and picking up supplies.

And you worry. Competition from big box stores, mass merchandisers and online retailers are big concerns for many independents, as is increasing sales and finding, training and retaining good help. 

Since smaller retailers stand out from the competition—and grow sales—by providing personalized service and reliable advice, a well-trained team can be your best asset. Training builds the knowledge and confidence to connect with customers about their pets and sell them the products they need. It improves job satisfaction and reduces employee turnover. And it prepares your people to take on new responsibilities, which takes some of the stress off you.

But many retailers can’t find time to train their people properly or don’t know how to start. That’s why the distributor members of the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) created Pet Store Pro ( Offered free to qualified retailers, online training from Pet Store Pro is the cost- and time-efficient way to make sure everyone who works for you has the skills to make your store a success.

Get Up and Running Quickly
Pet Store Pro is designed to let you start training and see results fast. The online format is easy to navigate from a computer or tablet. Students can study independently at home, at the store during downtime or from anywhere. Training managers can review and assign courses, set deadlines and check progress whenever and wherever it’s convenient. 

Courses focus on essential skills for any pet retailer, whether or not your store sells live pets. Content is fact-based, brand-neutral and industry-specific, so students can put what they’ve learned to use right away. You can customize the curriculum by assigning an entire chapter or only the sections that apply to your business. 

“I’d only been in business for three months when I started using Pet Store Pro,” says Marcia Cram, who purchased Just Fur Pets in Springfield, Va., in 2014. “I quickly reviewed the course overviews and was able to assign chapters based on what my people needed.” 

Cram’s employees study on a staff computer during paid breaks, so she can check in with them from time to time to see how they’re doing. Her associates realize that the store runs smoother when everyone has consistent knowledge, and they encourage their co-workers to take the training seriously. “Pet Store Pro is a real time-saver,” she says. “I didn’t have to cobble my own program together, and I don’t have to train every new hire myself.”

Maria Rosalbo and her husband opened Rosalbo Pets on Staten Island in 2012, after their neighborhood pet store went out of business. Neither had any pet retail experience. “Pet Store Pro really helped us set up the store, reorganize the shelves and learn about different types of pets,” she says. 
Rosalbo assigns all nine of Pet Store Pro’s pet care chapters to each of her employees, who study at the store during downtime. “If we don’t have any customers, they can choose to clean the store or grab a laptop and work on their assignments,” she says.

Her employees receive a bonus when they pass a chapter test because their learning affects her bottom line. “The more you know about how to care for animals, the better you can sell their food, treats and toys,” she says. 

Fernando Alcala, manager of Jurassic Pets in Salinas, Calif., discovered Pet Store Pro at a distributor open house in the spring of 2015. Thinking, “Anything that can benefit my store for free is worth a shot,” he dove right in. “Another manager and I reviewed a few of the chapters, and we were both surprised by how much we learned.”

He assigns his staff a minimum of two chapters per month and has them spend the first 30 minutes of their shift studying. “That’s when they’re the most alert and focused, and they can pick up something they can use on the job that day. Plus it makes the longer courses more manageable,” he says.

Test results help Alcala pinpoint areas where an employee might need extra help and tie into raises and advancement.

Put Knowledge to Work 
Launched in 2008 with a focus on business basics and animal care, Pet Store Pro now offers 27 courses at the associate and manager levels. Several shorter-format “micro” chapters—including two that were added this year—are designed for students to complete in about 15 minutes each and put the skills they’ve learned to use immediately.

Pet Retail Basics
For retailers like Cram, much of the staffing pool consists of young people starting their very first job. Pet Store Pro’s Pet Retail Basics is a two-part micro chapter to teach new hires retail fundamentals. 

Part one covers why store policies, such as presenting a professional appearance and showing up on time for shifts, are important. Part two explains how to demonstrate a service attitude, handle customers in the store and on the phone, and protect your store’s profitability.

“My new hires tend to be students with no employment experience. In terms of dress and personal grooming, anything goes at school,” Cram says. “Pet Store Pro drives home the importance of basics that I take as a given, but they might not.” 

Suggestive Selling
Associates who suggest additional products that complement a shopper’s original purchase, or remind customers of items they may have forgotten they needed, can turn their knowledge into sales. It’s easier than you might think to train your team to make suggestive selling a regular part of their conversations with customers. 

Pet Store Pro’s Suggestive Selling micro chapter teaches pet store employees how to use four easy techniques to increase total ticket value and provide great customer service. The chapter includes role-playing guidelines to make suggestive selling something associates do automatically.

Alcala’s associates hold contests to rate their skills. “The Suggestive Selling chapter has really had an impact on our sales,” he says. “We can nearly always add on an item that ties to the shopper’s needs—and customers appreciate that we’ve saved them a second trip.” 


Cashier Service Basics—New!
How your associates interact with customers at the register is a critical part of the shopper experience. The cashier is often the first and last employee customers see when they visit your store. Accuracy, efficiency and exceptional service at checkout can leave a lasting impression that keeps customers coming back.

Pet Store Pro’s new Cashier Service Basics micro chapter teaches primary checkout skills and responsibilities that create a positive shopping experience. The course applies to any pet retailer point-of-sale (POS) or business management system, whether checkout is handled by sales staff or by dedicated cashiers. 

Students will learn how to keep the checkout area clean and tidy, make customers feel welcome and appreciated, and understand the six steps for ringing up a sale. Other sections cover how to securely wrap and bag purchases and handle different types of payments. The chapter also teaches best practices to prevent fraud.


Social Media Marketing—New!
Social media is a powerful tool to attract, inform and connect with current and potential customers 24/7. Many retailers use Facebook and other social media, but lack the time or know-how to keep their posts current and engaging.

Pet Store Pro’s Social Media Marketing is a management-level micro chapter to help you make your social media presence more effective. The chapter provides specific tips and delivery strategies to save time and increase the impact of your marketing efforts. 

Retailers will learn how to follow a posting pattern—and the best types of content to use for each stage — to build strong customer relationships and increase sales. A section on developing a social media plan and calendar will help you define and achieve your marketing goals. The chapter also explains how to assign tasks to team members and find ideas to quickly develop great posts.

Try Pet Store Pro Today
Since Pet Store Pro was introduced at Global Pet Expo eight years ago, almost 25,000 pet store owners, managers and sales associates at more than 5,200 pet stores have used the program to build their retail expertise.

“Our customer relationships are stronger as a result of Pet Store Pro,” says Alcala. “They know that they’ll get the same reliable advice from everyone who works at our store.”

“My employees are more confident talking to customers, and my shift leaders are more confident in their management skills,” says Cram. In fact, she has such confidence in her team that she recently took a 10-day vacation. “I have a really good group of folks, thanks in part to Pet Store Pro” she says. “I was hesitant to leave my store, but they handled everything just fine—and they didn’t have to call me once while I was away.”

Test drive Pet Store Pro at PIDA booth 2301 today or log on to any time to learn more about the program.

Stephanie A. Kaplan is the director of online education for the Pet Industry Distributors Association. She manages PIDA’s free online training program, Pet Store Pro. Since its launch in 2008, almost 25,000 pet store owners, managers and sales associates from more than 5,200 retailers have used Pet Store Pro for brand-neutral training to build critical skills. Pet Store Pro is free to qualified retailers; visit to register and begin using the program.


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