A Level Playing Field
By Seth Mendelson


 Seth Mendelson
 Group Publisher
 Group Editorial Director



Two years ago, at an awards breakfast at Global Pet Expo, a retailer spoke about how suppliers had to level the playing field for all merchants and Internet retailers. He painted a pretty bleak picture for small and independent retailers, saying that his own operation of several stores was simply not getting the same great terms that suppliers were giving to larger chains and Internet businesses.

If things did not change, he was certain that his own business—as well as many other independent retailers—would soon vanish from the retail landscape.

The four-minute diatribe was met by stunned silence from the audience, half of whom did not know how to react, and half of whom were probably guilty of these practices.

Two years later, on the eve of another Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., I am here to tell you that this retailer, who will go unnamed, was right and that this practice has the potential to undermine the entire retail pet industry. 

On one hand, I cannot blame suppliers for doing all they can to get their products into retail outlets—the bigger, the better. Like everyone else, they have goals to reach and having one super chain tell them that—for the right price—they will take a lot more product than a small retailer can ever imagine selling is simply good business. Everyone, after all, has to look out for their own best interests.

On the other hand, this is really just a short-sighted approach to retailing. Rule number one in this business is that the more merchants out there carrying your products, the better chance for fair terms and increased sales. That, of course, leads to better profits for all. If the small players go away, common sense says, that the larger ones will be able to dictate demands that will eventually destroy your own business model.

Global Pet Expo is the industry’s top venue for bringing everyone in the industry together for three hectic days of showing products and discussing strategies. So, as retailers visit your booths during the expo, I suggest that you give all of them—big and small, traditional and digital—the same opportunity to make a living and keep their businesses thriving.

For the retail pet business to keep its 50-year winning streak going for decades to come, suppliers must realize that we need a vibrant retail landscape—one full of players of all sizes and expertise.