The Right Way
A growing chain, Petsway has proven its value as a pet retailer through its excellent service and unbridled compassion.
At the tender age of 11, Karl Keller Sr. made his entrance into the pet industry. In 1951, the future founder of Petsway began breeding and selling guppies, earning 10 cents for every fish sold. Today, his bedroom-based business has evolved into a seven-store franchise known for its informative staff, great selection of products, diverse services and commitment to helping the community.
From Guppies to Growth
It’s no surprise that Petsway’s beginnings were focused on aquatics retail. Keller’s first store, called Karl’s Aquarium, opened when he was 17. He then expanded, diversifying the store’s offerings to include animals other than fish and renaming his store Karl’s Aquarium and Pets. Further expansion prompted another name change, and from the 1980s onward, his stores operated under the name Pet Warehouse. In 2014, a rebranding resulted in a new name: Petsway.
Based in Missouri, Petsway has four locations in Springfield, with an additional three stores in Poplar Bluff, Affton and Nixa. The Nixa location opened in mid-November.
The locations carry fish, birds, small pets and reptiles, though specific offerings within those categories vary from store to store. Complementing this live animal offering is a wide range of services that include grooming, DIY dog-washing stations, obedience classes and birthday parties. Each store also holds clinics run by VIP Petcare, where pets can receive microchipping, vaccinations, flea and tick treatment, heartworm prevention and deworming.
While hosting these amenities poses some challenges in terms of scheduling and resources, the benefits are worth it. “By offering multiple services, we are extending another convenience to our customers by way of one-stop-shopping,” says Karl Keller II, Petsway’s vice president. “The services help us retain customers as well as bring in new ones.”
Keller explains that these services are made possible by Petsway’s knowledgeable staff. “Our greatest asset is our people,” he says. “Their friendliness and expertise—that is what sets us apart.”
The retailer also ensures that its customer support extends beyond the walls of its stores. The Petsway website is a valuable resource in terms of providing tips on pet care by including information on all kinds of pets—from cats to canaries. Petsway also maintains an active presence on social media.
“Sharing helpful information on our website and on Facebook is part of building trust and lasting relationships with current and prospective customers,” says Keller. “It goes hand in hand with being a trusted source for quality pet food and supplies.”
Connecting with customers is one of the cornerstones of Petsway’s business model. Even though the retailer is expanding, Petsway is still wary of the big-box store model and values its roots as a small, family-run business.
“We treat our customers like our neighbors and we build lasting relationships,” Keller explains. “We offer the brands and services the big stores offer while maintaining a family business culture that values relationships with our customers and community, much like you would expect from your locally owned neighborhood shop.”
Petsway also strengthens customer connections through its loyalty card and frequent-buyer programs. Customers who sign up for the free loyalty card can earn up to five percent back on purchases. There is also a similar loyalty card for grooming clients. The frequent-buyer program allows customers to earn free bags of pet food, a feature that Keller believes sets Petsway apart from big pet store chains.
Perhaps the most important way that Petsway engages with customers is through its charity projects. Petsway’s commitment to giving back earned the business the 2017 Community Service Retailer Excellence Award at Global Pet Expo.
Often, the main focus of Petsway’s philanthropy is helping local rescue groups. The stores run regular adoption events, and the retailer’s most successful project for 2017 was its Show-Me Pets calendar. The calendar features entries from a contest Petsway held on Facebook over the summer. Each calendar costs $5, and customers get to pick the shelter or rescue that their donation benefits. All of the proceeds from the calendar sales go to rescue groups, and Petsway raised $5,000 in total from this project last year.
With projects like the Show-Me Pets calendar, Petsway hopes to forge a strong relationship with the community. The retailer also supports local businesses by offering a selection of locally made treats and toys, and provides free dog washes to police K9s.
“Like a business, a community is only as strong as the people who support it,” says Keller. “It’s important to give back to the community that is supporting your business. It’s an investment that will help your community, will build goodwill for your business and help you retain and recruit good employees.”
Petsway also sponsors various charity events throughout the year. The retailer participated in the Lucky Paws silent auction by donating a prize of a year’s supply of pet food. All proceeds from the auction benefitted the Southwest Missouri Humane Society. Petsway also sponsors events at Springfield’s local dog park in order to raise funds for its upkeep.
However, not all of Petsway’s projects are centered on furry friends. Every year, a group of store employees participates as a team in a walk that raises money for research on multiple sclerosis. The retailer also raises funds for Harmony House, a domestic violence shelter.
By supporting a wide array of charities, Petsway not only donates time and money to worthy causes, it also boosts its public profile. Keller explains that philanthropy “gets you out in front of other business leaders, community service organizations, their teams of volunteers and the public in general.”
Petsway’s position as a valued retailer seems more secure than ever. This month, the franchise will open a new store in St. Peters, Mo. With strong goals for the future, Petsway plans on continuing to grow while giving back to the community it thrives in. PB