Do Independent Pet Retailers Need Their Own Association?


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The pet industry has a trade association expressly for manufacturers and one for distributors, but what about retailers?

After asking this question over and over during the 15-plus years I have been covering the pet care market for Pet Business, it looks like I've finally gotten the answer I was looking for all along: Of course pet specialty retailers—especially independents—deserve and, more importantly, need an organization that represents their unique interests.

And now someone is doing something about it.

The initial steps of creating a trade association specifically for independent pet stores are at long last underway, thanks to a group of some of the channel's premier players, including Mud Bay, Pet Food Express, Independent Pet Partners, All the Best Pet Care, Tomlinson's Feed, Pet People and Healthy Spot. Executives from these successful retail businesses have come together as a steering committee to build the foundation of an organization that will benefit indy pet retailers of all shapes and sizes in several key ways.

The idea was actually born from a series of informal meetings that this group, along with a number of other pet specialty retailers of various sizes, has held at the SuperZoo trade show over the past several years. Growing steadily each year—with more than 2,000 pet store locations represented in 2019—those meetings have provided an opportunity for retail executives to discuss common concerns with their peers, and participants have reported clear benefits from this type of information sharing. Now, they are trying to take things to the next level by formally organizing.

The goal, first and foremost, is to identify vendors that value and support the independent channel. To this end, the association will compile and curate detailed overviews of pet product manufacturers and brands, including information about their particular channel strategies.

Another important role that the organizers see the association playing is in helping with price monitoring. Today, individual retailers are devoting considerable resources to making sure their vendor partners are consistently policing established MAP and MRP policies. Having a centralized organization that serves in this function will not only eliminate much of that redundancy, it will likely be more comprehensive and will add weight to any reports of misconduct.

Speaking of pricing, the retailer association is also expected to build and maintain a comprehensive database of product information, including established MAP and MRP policies, which will be available to members so they can make educated decisions about their individual product selections. 

While the goals of the still-forming retailer association are ambitious, it is clear that it will not compete with established trade groups like the American Pet Products Association (APPA), Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) and World Pet Association (WPA). Instead, the organizers envision the retailer association partnering with APPA, PIDA and WPA—for example, by possibly creating special sections within their respective trade shows to highlight independent-friendly vendors.

Of course, there is still much work to be done. Creating a trade organization, even among the most receptive group of potential members, is no simple task. There are any number of legal, financial and other resource-focused issues that must be figured out before an independent pet retail association will get off the ground. The important thing, however, is that the ball is now rolling, and it seems to be gaining momentum with each passing week. 

I look forward to watching this idea into a reality. If you do, too, stay tuned to Pet Business for more developments as they happen. And if you want more information directly from the folks building the retailer association from the ground, up, send an email to info@indiePetRetailers.org.

 

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