West Paw Launches Limited Expansion into Target



This month, West Paw will begin selling a limited set of its U.S.-made, ecofriendly dog toys in select Target stores across the U.S. and on target.com.


The set includes six of West Paw’s popular Zogoflex toy SKUs in a limited range of colors. None of the products have been introduced within the past year, and some have been on the market for at least a decade.


“We’ve focused on products that are simpler and don’t require an explanation for the consumer to really understand how to use treats with toys,” explains Spencer Williams, CEO, and president of West Paw. “So, our puzzle toys have been excluded from this set, because we think those products are better suited to other channels.


“We look at the six-SKU product set as giving [Target customers] a taste, and when they walk into a local independent retailer for better food or better snacks, they’re going to find the more challenging and more complex West Paw products in a setting where they can get a better education.”


According to Williams, the limited scope of West Paw’s expansion into Target is a reflection of the company’s ongoing commitment to supporting the independent pet specialty retailers that helped build the brand.


“Pet specialty is our core business, and we’re incredibly proud of that,” he said. “Over all these years, we’ve chosen a very unique model where we look at our independents as customers that we want to serve directly, so we give them access to our amazing customer experience team and our sales team all year in Bozeman (Mont.). That has helped us build some fantastic relationships.”


With those relationships in mind, West Paw’s growth has always been—and will continue to be—done “thoughtfully” and “transparently,” said Williams, using the way the company has handled internet retail as an example.


“With online business, we really have been cautious and have had the courage to take steps to let retail partners go because they were not honoring MAP pricing,” he explained. “Those were expensive decisions, but given our commitment to fairness and transparency, we couldn’t continue to supply certain retailers if they didn’t uphold a fair marketplace.”


At the end of the day, Williams expects that West Paw’s expansion into a new retail channel will provide decided benefit for not only the brand, but for its pet specialty retail partners as well.


“In talking to brands outside of pet that have expanded into Target, we consistently have learned that the consumers who are shopping at Target are likely a different and unknown consumer to the [West Paw] brand,” he said. “If they are in Target and see one of our toys in the limited number of stores we’re in or online, we know that there’s going to be some brand affinity and brand growth from that presence. There is a tangible benefit that can happen, over time, as more people see the brand out there, the more they will be inclined to buy it locally and online in other stores besides Target.


“Over the years, as we’ve grown and added new retailers, we’ve seen our products selling better in our pet specialty stores. So, we see it as a benefit in building brand visibility and trust that will help all retailers.”


To Williams, providing that benefit to West Paw’s independent pet specialty retail partners is crucial.


“With 23 years in business, I continue to believe that our retailers are an integral part of our vision,” he said. “When we look at what West Paw does to make our business a force for good by minimalizing environmental impact and creating jobs in the United States, our independent retailers are an essential ingredient to our work.


“We’re not just selling another dog toy, we’re selling the idea that we all together, through our decisions, can use business as a force for good. That is something that I feel so strongly about, and I hope our retailers understand how impactful they are.”


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