Charting a New Course

Pet Store Pro's free online staff-training curriculum delivers even more ways for retailers to succeed.



*Special Global Pet Expo Coverage*



Aside from being a place to discover exciting new products and meet vendors face to face, Global Pet Expo is a great way to escape the daily grind and have some industry-related fun. But, particularly for independent retailers, business challenges are never far from mind. You may hesitate to even leave your store because there’s too much to do, or you worry that your staff can’t cope without you.

Sound familiar? Thankfully, help is available in the form of free online training from Pet Store Pro ( Created by the Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) and offered free to qualified retailers, Pet Store Pro is the cost- and time-efficient way to teach everyone who works for you essential skills.

Pet Store Pro was launched at the 2008 Global Pet Expo with a focus on animal care and business basics for entry-level employees. Now in its fifth year, the program offers more than 20 courses developed for pet store owners, managers and sales associates by pet experts—and it’s still free. Visit the PIDA booth (2400) to see new ways Pet Store Pro can deliver for your store:

•  Build leadership skills and improve performance with comprehensive manager training.

•  Create effective and profitable loyalty programs that reward your customers—and your business.

•  Test your pet expertise for the chance to win an iPad mini in one of three daily drawings.

Training Your Best Assets

A well-trained staff is a retailer’s best asset. Training shows your people that you value the work they do and motivates them to expand their capabilities. You profit from a team that delivers knowledgeable service that can increase sales, set your store apart from the competition and keep customers coming back. In addition, Pet Store Pro’s structured training gives busy owners more time to focus on strategic issues by making sure that routine tasks get done right.

“Running a store is hard, and I don’t always have time to train my help the way I need to,” says Dottie Anderson, owner of Rockport Pet Gallery in West Milford, N.J. She uses Pet Store Pro to evaluate how much knowledge her new hires have starting out. The easy-to-use, online format keeps them motivated. “My employees would much rather use a computer than open a book to learn,” she says. “Pet Store Pro really focuses them on what matters to my customers and my store.”

Pet Store Pro’s expanded customer service and merchandising courses give Anderson new ideas to improve her business. “We use the merchandising material every day,” she says. “I’ve been in business for over 35 years, and there’s always something more to learn. Pet Store Pro keeps me up to date.”

New Courses Tackle Challenges

Pet Store Pro’s catalog for owners and managers has expanded since the first manager courses were introduced at last year’s Global Pet Expo. The manager curriculum now includes seven courses that teach effective ways to lead and motivate employees, and handle day-to-day operations better and faster.

Appropriate for managers promoted from within the store, outside hires and owners who want to brush up on their own skills, Pet Store Pro’s manager training uses pet-specific examples that apply to your business. Courses include:

•  Coaching & Motivating Employees introduces six core coaching techniques to help low-performing sales associates excel and star performers do even better. Topics include identifying reasons for underperformance, clarifying expectations and addressing problems in ways that motivate and boost confidence.

•  Communication for Retail Managers develops critical skills to build strong working relationships that maximize sales and productivity. Lessons include how to provide direction by focusing on specific behaviors and outcomes, use appropriate reinforcement techniques and set SMART goals.

•  Interviewing Within the Law explains interviewing and hiring best practices so you can recruit the best people the right way. The chapter covers U.S. labor laws, the dos and don’ts of interviewing, and how and why interviewers should take notes to document the process.

•  Leadership & Team Building explains how to gain competitive advantage and achieve customer service goals with forward-thinking leadership that fosters teamwork and accountability. Topics include how to facilitate brainstorming, create a shared vision, and encourage personal authority and empowerment from every team member.

•  Managing Workplace Conflict strengthens team dynamics and trust to prevent conflict from interfering with your store’s sales and service goals. The chapter teaches strategies and guidelines to treat conflict as an opportunity to resolve underlying problems and create a work environment where ideas are shared freely.

•  Problem-Free Problem Solving helps managers make key decisions related to sales and service objectives by generating potential solutions and selecting the best alternative. The course introduces analytical and creative techniques for independent and team problem solving.

•  Understanding Gross Margin improves profit planning by ensuring that managers understand each component of profitability. Lessons include calculating markups and markdowns, analyzing gross margin over time and profit-driving strategies.

Customer Loyalty
Why do so many customer-loyalty programs result in little more than a card in a wallet? Pet Store Pro is introducing two courses that reveal the answer to that question, and will help you develop, manage and promote a successful customer-loyalty program.

Too often, customer-loyalty programs simply don’t provide value to retailers or consumers. Customers may feel that the use of their personal information is more an invasion than an advantage. Sales associates who have nothing at stake can’t or don’t explain the benefits to customers. Owners can be daunted by the technical aspects and financial investment needed to analyze marketing data and put it to use.

These legitimate concerns may prevent pet retailers from implementing or enhancing a customer-loyalty program. But successful programs are an effective way to build long-term customer relationships and collect shopper data for higher-ROI targeted marketing. In fact, loyalty experts say that retailers can typically expect a 10-percent increase in sales over the first 18 months of a customer-loyalty program — if done well.

Even small independent retailers with limited resources can succeed with Pet Store Pro’s new courses, which cover best practices for owners, managers and sales associates. 

Managing Customer-Loyalty Programs teaches owners and managers the purpose and strategies of different reward structures—such as membership-based, discount-based and point-based programs. You can build a program by choosing a combination of reward options that will appeal to your customers and will work with your point-of-sale (POS) or business management system. The course takes a “keep it simple” approach, using case studies from real pet retailers to help owners implement practical and effective programs.

Customer-Loyalty Program Fundamentals helps sales associates understand their roles in a successful loyalty program and how—and why—they should participate.

Easy and Free
Pet Store Pro is the convenient, easy and fun way to provide essential skills training for pet store owners, managers and sales associates. Used alone or as part of an existing training program, the online format offers maximum flexibility, letting students study when and where it works for them­—and for you. The easy-to-use learning management system lets managers assign courses and monitor student progress. Content is brand-neutral, to apply to the product lines you sell.

Employee training topics include basic and advanced customer service and sales skills, merchandising fundamentals and advanced merchandising, and fact-based animal nutrition. Separate chapters cover in-store care for birds, dogs, cats, small animals, freshwater fish, saltwater fish, lizards, snakes, and turtles and tortoises.

Training for pet store owners and managers covers managing customer loyalty programs, coaching and motivating employees, communication for retail managers, interviewing within the law, leadership and team building, managing workplace conflict, problem-free problem solving and understanding gross margin.

It’s easy to get started. Just register your store on the website, then create a username and password for each student. The modular format lets you assign training based on the products you sell and the skills your people need. You can even print out certificates of achievement when students successfully complete a chapter or the entire program. Post certificates in the store to recognize accomplishment—and to let your customers know they’re receiving service from a Pet Store Pro.


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