All Customers Considered
All Pets Considered in Greensboro, N.C., has tailored its product selection and services to meet changing consumer demands in its 22-year run.
Kristine Godfrey knows a few things about the changing landscape of pet retail. She began her journey in the industry 30 years ago, working for a pet supply store throughout high school and college. Only a month into the job, she became determined to open her own pet store one day. In 1992, after spending some time as a manufacturer representative for a pet food company, Godfrey’s dream became a reality when she opened All Pets Considered in Greensboro, N.C.
While the Greensboro area had a plethora of mom-and-pop pet stores at the time, Godfrey was confident her concept would work for the market. “I was the only one at the time that didn’t sell animals,” Godfrey says. “In fact, someone in the industry who helped me build out the store told me that if I didn’t sell animals, I’d never make it.”
Godfrey did not listen to that industry veteran, and her approach proved successful. However, in the 22 years since All Pets Considered opened, the company has made some adjustments in order to meet changing consumer demands. The original 3,000-square-foot store carried pet supplies for all companion animals, including dogs, cats, small animals, birds and fish. Today, the store, which relocated in 2000 and has since expanded to 11,700 square feet, is focused solely on dog and cat products, as well as pet-themed gift items for people.
“For our store, [other animal categories] starting trending out about 10 years ago,” says store manager Alison Schwartz. “However, we completely removed the stock about five years ago. We were just seeing a trend where products were going out of date and consumers were demanding more cat and dog products.”
This year, the store received a facelift to further communicate that focus to its customers. Godfrey commissioned a local artist to design a new logo—which prominently features a dog and cat—and paint a brightly colored window display on the store’s exterior: a park scene that showcases dogs and cats interacting with their owners.
Pets are welcome inside the store, which was also remodeled earlier this year. “When you first walk into the store, it has more of a boutique feel,” Godfrey says, noting that its 2,000-square-foot gift section is the first area customers walk through. “Further back into the store is where customers will find the pet supplies.”
The sales floor features a variety of products for both dogs and cats, including high-end food, treats, supplements, beds, bowls, feeder, collars, leashes, first-aid products, grooming supplies, litter and toys.
The store only offers food and treats that are made in the USA, and it is also focusing on products that are locally made. “As of late 2013, we took all out consumables that were not made in the USA,” Godfrey says. “We’re also looking for more made-in-the-USA boutique items.”
Meeting customer demands also meant expanding the store’s raw food offerings, says Schwartz. “We added three double-glass door freezers, and we have a freezer dedicated to special orders, which is off the sales floor,” she says. “Our customers are more interested in the raw foods, and our staff trends that way too. Our staff has really gotten behind it, and that’s where our push toward it evolved.”
This year’s expansion will allow the store to offer even more services in its grooming salon and spa. Adding grooming services seven years ago is yet another example of how All Pets Considered has adapted to the evolving industry—and it has been successful for the store. “It evolved and grew rapidly,” Godfrey says.
The 1,700-square-foot grooming area—its services account for 20 percent of the store’s revenue—employs three full-time and one-part time groomers, as well as three bathers. Standard services include shampoo, deep coat conditioner, facial scrub, paw pad treatment, nail clipping and trims, ear cleaning, anal gland expressions, haircuts and de-shedding treatment. However, Godfrey is hoping the expansion will enable the store to add more services, like Reiki and massage.
One of the major drivers of All Pets Considered’s success is its staff’s passion for pets, which shines through the store’s award-winning customer service. All Pets Considered received the Retailer Excellence Award for Customer Service at this year’s Global Pet Expo. Hiring knowledgeable employees—most of whom have experience with rescue groups—and employing a bi-monthly secret shopper service has been key to delivering top-notch service, says Godfrey.
The store’s 10 full-time and 22 part-time employees often take the initiative to research pet food trends on their own and are also encouraged to participate in online training offered through manufacturers. “We will give them rewards when they bring in certificates showing they’ve completed the online training,” Schwartz says. “They will get paid the extra hours for training outside of the store.”
Employees are also trained through manufacturer seminars, which are held twice a month. “From our distributors to our food reps, we view them as an extension of the family and become good friends with them,” Schwartz adds. “I think that often fosters a family environment among our staff.” She notes that this family environment results in low turnover.
The store’s customers are also part of All Pets Considered’s extended family—and it speaks volumes about the level of service offered at the store. The staff is trained to greet each customer as they walk through the door, and if a customer has a pet in tow, with the owner’s permission, the staff offers treats to its canine customers. “Our regular customers’ dogs make a beeline to the back for treats,” Godfrey says.
Employees are also instructed to check on customers after they’ve had between three and five minutes to browse the store. “We continuously try to help customers to make sure they don’t need any help or have any questions,” Schwartz says.
The secret-shopper program helps keep these customer service standards in check, and employees are informed of this practice—and what they’ll be evaluated on—when they are hired. A secret shopper evaluates the store in five areas: general store appearance, employee greeting, employee service, making a purchase and the overall shopping experience. The reports allow management to identify and address issues in the store—whether they are positive or negative.
“If there’s an issue reported in the secret shop report, we can usually track down the employee and individually address the ways they can improve,” Schwartz says. “When we get excellent secret-shop reports, we post them for the entire staff to see and congratulate the employees. We’re going to start an incentive program soon for employees that get shout outs on secret shops.”
The store’s recent expansion included another component to enhance the customer experience: a multi-purpose room for hosting rescue organization events, educational seminars, seasonal events and pet portrait sessions. The store holds a weekly Yappy Hour, which continues to draw more attendees. The Yappy Hours also give manufacturers the chance to highlight their products and offer special deals for customers. “It’s the perfect opportunity for manufacturers to send free products for customers to sample,” says Schwartz.
All Pets Considered’s interaction with customers is not limited to the store. Schwartz says the company has made an effort to attend more festivals and other events in the local community. At these events, All Pets Considered offers attendees the opportunity to spin its “wheel of deals” for coupons they can redeem at the store. “There are coupons for everything from free bags of food or treats to half off a bathing package in our grooming salon,” Godfrey says. “People love it because they usually get something for free, and it drives people to our store.”
Attending community events helps generate the word-of-mouth buzz the company relies on. However, word-of-mouth is not All Pets Considered’s only marketing strategy. The store has adapted to the changing digital landscape by utilizing its Facebook page and customer email to market its message. “We try to keep a really good Facebook community going, and we also have a very good customer email list we use to communicate information about sales and new products to our customers,” Schwartz says.
The strategy works well for All Pets Considered, and the company’s recent anniversary celebration exemplified that. The August event, which offered customers 22 percent off certain items, was promoted through several Facebook posts, email, signage posted outside of the store and through word of mouth. “Through those marketing tools alone, it was our second-highest sales day,” Schwartz says.
“We basically spent no money on advertising, and it was still an amazing day,” Godfrey adds. “As the big-box stores have sprung up—and we’ve had a lot of competition open up around us—so many customers have come in and told us that they notice the level of customer service we offer is so much more than that of a big-box store. We have felt very appreciated, and it’s nice to hear that our customers recognize the level of customer service we give them.”