Facing a Whole New World Together

Small, independent retailers play an important role in leading the pet industry into a future filled with change.




"It’s a whole new world out there!” How many times have we all heard that phrase?


I can remember all the way back to my days in school when that would be the solemn refrain of teachers trying to scare me into actually paying attention in class. If I didn’t listen, they were saying, I would be swallowed up by a mystical “new world order.”


Well, I paid enough attention to get by, but I never really focused on just what a whole new world really meant or why it was important.


Now I get it. I am sure that about a hundred years ago, people were wrestling with the concept that you could actually sit in a car and drive somewhere rather than using the horse and buggy. You could even get a newspaper that told you about so many things that happened in the world over the past month. Things were moving quicker than ever, and to be successful you had to understand the changes and learn how to best take advantage of them.


Fast-forward to today. Now, in addition to ultra-modern cars that not only drive you but also tell you the weather and traffic conditions and even dial the phone for you, we have phones that do all the things that cars don’t, including doing the family shopping, turning your lights on and off and anything else you want, short of walking the dog—although I’m sure someone is working on that right now.


The point is that there really is a whole new world out there, and to be successful you need to understand every aspect of that world and know how to take advantage of it. Look at our industry. When I first started here about 15 years ago, so much of our industry was made up of family-owned and -operated companies, which were in many cases actually run by the founders of the company.


Today, that is no longer the rule but rather the exception. Acquisitions are making headlines on almost a daily basis. Larger companies are finding partners in smaller companies. Traditionally non-pet related companies are finding the lure of the human-animal bond to be too strong to ignore and are reaching out to be part of our industry.


With these changes come some challenges in what the correct path to successful business interactions look like. In some cases, it is no longer just a friendly visit, chat about the family and complete your transaction. Now there are new people to see—people who, in some cases, have never before been involved with the pet industry. Occasionally you will be dealing with companies for which pets do not represent the majority of their business.


As a result, today’s single-unit pet retailers face a lot of challenges that they never had to deal with before. It sometimes may seem like they are a forgotten group, but that is absolutely not the case. They are the main line of communication with pet owners, making them as much the face of our industry as anyone else. Many companies recognize that special niche and offer incentives to keep small, independent retailers actively engaged and involved.


To those retailers I say, keep up the level of expertise you have always added to our industry, using local breeders, groomers, shelters and other pet services as valuable partners. You’re all an important part of this industry’s leadership as we move ahead into a whole new world. PB


Bob Vetere is the president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association and chairman of the Pet Leadership Council.


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