Celebrating Retailer Excellence
Pet Business, Wholesalepet.com and the organizers of Global Pet Expo recognized eight outstanding pet retailers at Thursday’s Retailer Excellence Awards presentation.
Bentley’s Pet Stuff, Agri Feed Pet Supply and Teca Tu - A Pawsworthy Pet Emporium took the top honors at the seventh-annual Retailer Excellence Awards presentation. Part of Thursday’s Pet Industry Breakfast, the awards ceremony was hosted by Pet Business magazine and the organizers of Global Pet Expo, and was sponsored by WholesalePet.com.
“We’re just so proud to be able to sponsor and support not just the winners, but the entire independent [pet retailer] channel,” said Chris Avery, CEO of WholesalePet.com. “They are the lifeblood of the industry.”
Each year, the Retailer Excellence Awards recognize outstanding independent pet specialty retailers in a variety of categories. The list of winners in 2018 includes:
Best Overall Single-Store Retailer
Teca Tu - A Pawsworthy Pet Emporium - Santa Fe, NM
Best Overall Multi-Unit Retailer (2-10 Stores)
Agri Feed Pet Supply - Knoxville, TN
Best Overall Multi-Unit Retailer (10+ Stores)
Bentley’s Pet Stuff - Lincolnshire, IL
Best Live Animal Retailer
Jungle Bob’s Reptile World - Selden & Oakdale, NY
Best Multi-Service Retailer
Woof! Orlando - Orlando, FL
Merchandising & Store Design Excellence
Riverfront Pets - Wilmington, DE
Customer Service Excellence
Bay State Pet & Garden Supply - Taunton, MA
Community Service Excellence
Natural Pawz - Spring, TX
At the awards ceremony, this year’s winners were excited and humbled to be recognized as some of the premier retailers in the pet industry.
“I never actually expected to win, so when I heard this exciting news, tears started to run down my face because all I could think about is what my father would have thought and how proud he would have been,” said Britt Sturm, owner of Agri Feed Pet Supply.
Agri Feed Pet Supply was started in 1976 by Sturm’s grandfather and a business partner. Later, his father stepped in, eventually becoming the sole proprietor. Now, Sturm and his mother, Melissa, run the two locations in Knoxville, Tenn. They face challenges running two stores, such as keeping up a synchronized appearance with the varying product selections and sizes of each location, as well as catering to two different demographics. But the benefits outweigh the challenges.
“Providing more jobs in the community, making a difference in more pets’ and people’s lives, as well as supporting a broader portion of the Knoxville community, are great benefits of having multiple locations,” he said.
Despite having over 100 stores, Bentley’s Pet Stuff remains humble and grateful about earning the Best Overall Multi-unit Retailer (10+ Stores) award.
“It is very exciting for us to win this award,” said Lisa Senafe, founder and president of Bentley’s. “It does reassure us that we are staying true to who we are. Whether we are five stores or 95 stores, we still have our same mission, goals and values in mind, and we want our vendors, employees, customers and peers to share the growth with us.”
The company plans to focus more on giving back to rescues and children in need in the future.
“We want to make sure we are doing all this great growth for a bigger purpose and cause,” Senafe added.
Feeding the Community
Pet retailers give back to their community in a variety of ways. The Merchandising and Store Design Excellence Award winner, Riverfront Pets, saw a need for a destination where pet parents could go to develop community.
“[Wilmington] is a recently developed, downtown riverfront community with plenty of green spaces, boardwalks and family-centered attractions. Best of all, more than 60 percent of our neighbors are pet owners,” said Laura Gangloff, owner of Riverfront Pets. “We wanted to create a place where dog and cat owners could gather, share information, find the best diet for the health of their furry friends, have access to quality sitting/walking/grooming services and really spend time together.”
Jungle Bob’s Reptile World was recognized as being the Best Live Animal Retailer, and part of earning that honor is making sure that its customers are educated on which animals will make the best pet for each situation.
“We make sure customers know that sulcata tortoises and green iguanas probably aren’t the right animals to start with,” said Jungle Bob. “Beyond that, we steer young couples with kids away from water turtles for hygiene reasons, and if a snake is what they want, [we steer them] towards something that stays small and is docile, like a corn snake.”
More adept owners have their pick of animals, since Jungle Bob’s Reptile World carries a variety of exotics. “If an experienced keeper comes in looking for something exotic, they came to the right store too! We offer a wide variety of animals in that department,” he said.
Without a customer base, pet retailers wouldn’t exist, which is why customer service is one of the most important aspects of running a business. Bay State Garden and Pet, which won the Customer Service Excellence Award, prides itself on its relationships with customers.
“When you have such a relationship with people like we do, especially your main customer base, it’s almost like they’re family,” said Tom Reposa, owner of Bay State Garden and Pet.
Customer service is imperative, especially in today’s market where chain stores and internet sales are growing. To compete with the giants, independent stores need to go above and beyond to cater to their customers.
“It differentiates you from chain stores, and even other stores,” said Reposa. “[Customers] remember the people that took care of them and the effort that they took. At the end of the day, you always remember the person who waited on you. It makes you feel good.”