Building a Greener Pet Business

In order to keep up with the green movement, pet retailers must cultivate an education on eco-friendly products and business practices.


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Today’s pet retailers are continuously searching for the perfect business approach to attract new customers and drive profits in the crowded marketplace. Constantly asking questions seems to be the standard course of events. Will offering do-it-yourself services enhance my sales? Will altering my product offering change the profitability of my pet business? Will social media participation help attract new prospects or improve customer loyalty?

And many of the best retailers continue to look for an answer to the ever-elusive question: What is it that consumers want and how do I find out how to establish a profitable business around meeting their needs? One area that all retailers (pet included) continue to explore is the world of eco-friendly and green business. So the question becomes, why should my pet business be concerned with the green movement?

The first and most important answer to why being green matters to retailers starts with the almighty consumer. The green movement has been around for some time now, but consumer involvement has accelerated in recent years. Initially, green consumers focused on the ingredients that comprised “organically sourced” products. Today’s consumers are increasingly more focused on the impact on climate and natural resource consumption that their activities and lifestyle create.

The eco-friendly consumer considers being a “good environmental citizen” by reducing their carbon footprint. Their environmental decisions not only include their own personal actions, but also extend to partnering with and shopping at stores that understand their desires and eco-friendly needs. This shared concern creates an opportunity for retailers to succeed with offerings that cater to the newly evolved “eco-citizen” and thus benefit (in the form of profits as well as improving the planet) by selling products that fit their lifestyle.

Retailers need to adopt new “environmentally aware” approaches that utilize sustainable products and operating procedures without compromising product quality and excellence, affordability, in-store experience and overall customer satisfaction. Successful retailers recognize the time has arrived to get better educated about the Green Movement and the expectations/ demands of its consumer participants.


Building a Green Pet Store
Developing a green retail pet business today is about much more than just merchandising more organic pet food on your shelves. Building this type of business from the ground up will touch all aspects of your operation and requires the knowledge and expertise developed through education. Fortunately, we live in the information age; you can utilize the expertise of others to guide your efforts.

Commence by looking within your own industry and learn from the experiences of pioneers. Equally as important is to investigate best practices from other industries that are transferable to your store’s operations. The products you offer may be unique to the pet industry, but shipping practices, packaging materials, in-store energy efficient systems and electronic marketing efforts are all examples of operational systems that can be adopted from other industries. Examples sources of broad Green Retail best practices include:

 

Greening Retail
www.greeningretail.ca/

The National Retail Federation
www.nrf.com/

International Council of Shopping Centers
www.icsc.org/

European Commission Retail Forum For Sustainability
ec.europa.eu/environment/industry/retail/index_en.htm

Mother Nature Network
www.mnn.com/eco-biz/money-green-jobs/stories/10-eco-friendlyretailers

Once you have established a broad perspective of eco-friendly retail best practices, you can shift your focus to the products and services that are specifically oriented to the pet industry. The broader education you have refined in the retail industry will help you discern and filter which pet industry practices are “must haves” and how to improve upon them to gain a competitive advantage in your marketplace. Key lessons here will be about product selection as well as in-store operations.


Find Green Friendly Products
As time and the market have proven, there are now a multitude of green products that can fit into pet retailers’ product assortments. Ask yourself, “What eco-friendly products are available to incorporate into my stores’ product portfolio that will enhance my customers experience or attract new customers?” Determining what does your store needs to look and act like in order to fulfill the green consumer expectations must not be an off-the-cuff decision. Think strategically about how you want to be viewed in the marketplace with the green products you carry and the green ways of doing business that will best suit your customers’ needs.


When to Get Started
If you own an existing business, introducing eco-friendly products can be done as gradually as you see fit. Merchandising a new organic pet food to replace a slow-turning item is rather simple. Switching suppliers from existing partners to more eco-friendly manufacturers is a more difficult decision requiring customer input, strategic thinking and detailed implementation planning. Other, more operational, transformations will be more successful if implemented all at once. Switching to recycled gift wrap and installing low energy lighting are best done in one quick change rather than over long stretches of time.


How Much To Invest
Investments in energy-efficient windows, heating/cooling systems and eco-friendly fixtures requires assessing tax implications, profit impact and payback analysis. Purchasing eco-friendly cleaning products and setting the air conditioning a few degrees higher are much simpler decisions with minimal to no investment required.

Electronic marketing is more a reallocation of marketing resources than an investment. Transitioning from paper-based marketing activities to electronic marketing will not only help the environment, but the lower cost structure and enhanced messaging precision capabilities will improve marketing return on investment as well.

Greening up your knowledge about eco-friendly business and green products can help you determine what the potential upside might be for your business. One thing is for sure, whatever you do, let your customers know about all of your environmental efforts; they’ll appreciate them and reward your investments. 


Lynn Switanowski is the founder and president of Creative Business Consulting Group, a Boston, Mass.-based retail consulting company. CBCG helps pet industry retailers improve sales and profits by creating and implementing strategy, marketing, social media marketing and inventory planning programs. Contant Lynn for more information: lynn@cbc-group.net, (617) 437-9191 or www.facebook.com/cbcgroup.

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