In a year turned upside down by a global pandemic, natural disasters and social unrest, it has been nothing short of amazing to see how independent pet retailers across the country have stepped up to not only keep their own stores afloat, but also continue driving business for their vendor partners while providing much-needed support to pet owners and their communities through these difficult times. That is why Pet Business has decided to break from our decade-long tradition of honoring a single stand-out business as our Retailer of the Year, in favor of celebrating all independent and neighborhood pet stores.


As you will read in this month’s cover story, pet stores have faced a herculean task in reimagining their approach to retail in the face of the unprecedented challenges that have been thrown at them in 2020. From implementing in-store safety measures to keep their customers and employees healthy, to adding or expanding services like home delivery and curbside pickup, to adjusting store hours to accommodate staffing shortages and avoid putting store associates and pet owners in harm’s way, independent retailers have practically moved mountains to keep their doors open. 


For that, the entire Pet Business staff says, “thank you”—as should every member of the pet industry. After all, without the independents, the pet care market would not be the diverse, innovative and passionate industry that it is today. These are the businesses that forge essential connections between brands and consumers, nurture emerging trends and product advancements, and provide grassroots support to a variety of pet-related causes. These are the professionals who teach pet owners how to take better care of their animal companions and pet product manufacturers how to take better care of their customers.


It is with this in mind that every member of the pet industry’s vendor community should step up in supporting our most valuable retailers, even beyond this turbulent period. While that has long meant doing things like creating and enforcing fair pricing strategies, offering differentiated branding between retail channels whenever possible, and making sure they have access to the right products at the right time, now it can also mean supporting the new Independent & Neighborhood Pet Retail Association (IndiePet). 


Also covered in this month’s cover story, IndiePet was created by a diverse group of independent pet retailers to represent and support the unique interests of their peers at time when competition within the pet care market is hotter than ever. It’s a first-of-its kind organization within this industry, and one that is frankly long overdue. I encourage every reader to turn to pg. 90 to learn more about this still fledgling—yet very important—association, and then show your support by becoming a member or a sponsor. Doing so will go a long way in ensuring the future success of our independent retailers—and our industry.