Small pet product distributors are facing growing competition from the bigger players, and retailers stand to benefit.
As you will read in this month’s cover story, consolidation among distributors has created a tough competitive climate in the pet industry’s supply chain. In response, more and more small distributors have begun hosting open-house events, which have become much more frequent over the past few years. At these open houses, retailers can obtain valuable product information in a more intimate setting than they would find a big national trade show. In addition, distributors and their vendors typically get together to offer attractive show-related buying incentives that can prove valuable in helping small independents approach pricing parity with bigger retailers.
“Distributor open houses have certainly exploded over the years,” says Jim Seidewand, a 40-plus-year pet-retail veteran and owner of Pet World and the Aqua Shoppe, which operates two stores in Rochester, N.Y. “We now see multiple open houses per distributor each year.”
Steve King, president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association, explains that there is good reason for the increase in distributor open-house events that are being made available to retailers. “It’s [partially] a defensive move on the part of some distributors that have major competitors in their area that are offering their own open-house events,” he says. “And it’s also a great opportunity to show retailers that their business is appreciated.”
Jack Drasner, president of PRISM Sales, also sees distributor open houses becoming more prominent in the pet industry and points to a recent well-attended Fauna Foods event not only as an example of how these events have become a valuable feature of the distributor/retailer relationship, but also as a barometer for how receptive small, independent retailers have become to forming new partnerships with smaller players in the pet industry’s distribution channel.
“After many years in business, Fauna Foods just held their first open house, and it was a great show,” he says. “To me, that means that retailers are out there looking for deals and new relationships. It’s still a relationship industry.”