Pet Business: The range of pet products offered by Pet Safe has grown quite broad over the past several years. What has driven the brand’s expansion beyond its original focus?
Jason Hart: The number-one driver has been our mission to make Pet Safe the most trusted brand in the pet ownership experience. In order to accomplish something like that, you need to offer a range of products across various categories, so the consumer has a number of touch points both in the store and at home. Our growth strategy also allows us to follow where consumers are going with their purchasing patterns; pet owners are evolving as a customer base, and this allows us to evolve with them.
The key for us is remaining consistent in our goal to provide better solutions for people and their pets to help solve behavioral issues. That has been the driving force behind what we do, in terms of innovating the pet care category. So, as we expand into new areas—whether it’s feeders or toys—we’re focusing on how we can help pet owners solve issues. And we’ve been very successful in that regard.
PB: In 2010, Pet Safe’s parent company, Radio Systems, made a couple of key acquisitions—specifically, Veterinary Ventures and Premier Pet Products. How has the incorporation of these acquisitions gone?
Hart: The incorporation of those acquisitions has gone well. Of course, they were well-established brands, so we took our time with the integration to make sure we did it correctly and added value to those acquisitions. We incorporated many of the people from those companies—for example, I was originally at Premier Pet Products at the time of the acquisition—so we still have much of the marketing and product development teams with us. We’ve been able to leverage the expertise of the people who were in those companies to help us develop more products and provide the resources we need to be successful.
On the product side, the acquisitions have enabled us to expand the Pet Safe brand into new categories with market-leading products, whether it’s the Gentle Leader or Drinkwell fountains. And from an RSC [retail supply chain] perspective, we can open the door for growth of some of these products through our distribution channels, our relationships with vendors and even our engineering, which can drive more innovation to those products.
PB: Will you continue to broaden the Pet Safe brand into new product categories? If so, are there any particular areas of interest?
Hart: We definitely want to continue expanding the Pet Safe brand. There are a couple of areas where we currently have products, but see additional opportunities. For example, in the treat category, we launched Lickety Stik consumable treats about a year ago, but there is still a great opportunity for expansion in that area. Similarly, in the toy category, our Busy Buddy line has done very well, but we can still continue to increase our market penetration. We’re also looking at other categories where we can bring innovation to the market.
PB: How does Pet Safe partner with pet specialty retailers to help them achieve success in a crowded, competitive marketplace?
Hart: The number-one thing we do is provide a strong sales force to work with our customers and listen to what they need, whether it’s over the phone or out in the field. We also provide a variety of merchandising options, depending on the category. We have a number of displays available for our products, such as Lickety Stik. We understand that retailers have a limited amount of shelf space, and offering these displays gives them an opportunity to try out something new or create traffic in multiple points of the store.
A big part of how we help retailers is with our customer-care lines. Some of our products are not necessarily easy for consumers to handle sometimes—putting in an invisible fence or a [doggie] door can be complicated. We have retailers direct all of their customers’ questions to us, so we can help them work through the project. This way, everyone is satisfied and retailers see less returned products. Providing information on our products, on the web and through our customer-care team is a big part of what we do.