Pet Business: From your perspective, what is the state of the pet industry?
Brad Forgette: I still see it as a growing market for those who compete with quality products—and I want to emphasize quality. I am firm believer that the companies with quality products are doing well.
Unfortunately, companies from around the world have come into the market with knock-off products, particularly over the past five to 10 years. So, while it may not look, to some people, like there has been a lot growth in the pet industry, there really has been growth—it’s just that the existing business has been cannibalized by these knock-off companies, so the pieces of the pie have gotten smaller and smaller.
PB: What has been going on at Marchioro over the past few years?
Forgette: After I started with Marchioro in late 2010, I quickly found areas where their U.S. operations could be improved, and we’ve spent the last two years making those improvements. It basically came down to building more accountability into the organization. So, we now have a new sales team, a new accountant, new customer service, a new operations manager and a new warehouse manager—the team is completely different. So while this part of the organization may not have been managed as effectively as it could have been in the past, it is now a highly efficient and well-managed machine.
PB: What sets Marchioro products apart from the competition?
Forgette: Many of our competitors will only go out and duplicate what already exists, and what is already selling. What makes us stand out is that we do not produce a product to knock-off someone else’s product. When we create a product, we do so because there is a practical need for that product. For example, with our new small-animal cages for mice, gerbils and rats, we created a wider cage to house three or four animals. Also, instead of the traditional little reach-through door that your hand barely fits through, we incorporated a 12- or 16-inch fold-open door, so you can fit both hands in for cleaning and interacting with the animals.
In addition, when we create new products, we create new colors that nobody else has. For example, this fall, we introduced new pastel and other trendy colors in our dog carriers—like light yellow, lilac and light green—which no one else has. We’re bringing the European colors—as some people call them—to the U.S. market.
Another thing that really sets Marchioro apart from everyone else is quality. When you look at other companies’ carriers, cat pans or small animal cages, you will see thinner plastic and inferior quality to what we’re producing. In fact, all of our pet products have a one-year unlimited warranty. And while some people might assume that the higher quality we offer comes with a higher price tag, our pricing is in the same ballpark as our major competitors.
PB: What’s new and exciting at Marchioro, in terms of product introductions?
Forgette: On the small animal side, in addition to introducing the larger habitats for mice, gerbils and rats, as I mentioned earlier, we’re really focusing on multilevel rabbit and guinea pig habitats. Most people are used to the habitats that get put into a stand or on a table. What we’ve done is make them so they can be stacked. So, you might have a 48-inch cage that you can put on top of another cage. We sell a whole kit, which includes a ramp that you can put through the top of one cage and through the bottom of another, creating up to a three-story habitat.
On the dog and cat side, we’re introducing new trendy colors that nobody else offers. It’s a lively palette of colors that we started producing based on feedback we got from our retailer customers.
Another area that we’re working on is our accessory items. In the past, we’ve focused on our carriers and cages; we’ve never really put a push behind our accessories. One of the things we do very well is create functional, practical accessory items, and we’re building plan-o-grams and prepacks of those products now.
We’re also going to put a lot of emphasis on our large habitats in the bird category. These habitats break down with our C-system, which means collapse system. For example, we have a cage that is six-feet tall by four-feet wide by 30-inches deep when it’s assembled; but when we ship it, it fits in a box that is only 47 inches by 24 inches by 11 inches, because it folds down on top of itself. That includes all of the necessary accessories—the perches, the feeders and waterers, and either wheels or a stand.
Another exciting development that I would like to mention is that our retailer customers are no longer limited to buying only the products that we offer through our U.S. distribution channel. Today, retailers can buy any of the 2,000 items that Marchioro manufactures, not just what we stock in the USA.