If you've been keeping up with the latest pet industry trends, you know that expanding pet store operations is a popular thing to do to grow your business.
With the growth of e-commerce, there's a new level of pressure on those who must either step up their game or be swallowed whole by free two-day delivery and the convenience of shopping in pajamas at 2am.
Whether you've been entertaining the thought of expanding your pet store for a few years or only just recently, there are many things to take into consideration to ensure your chances for successful growth are made as large as possible.
1. Financial Strength
Before you decide to open a second, third, or fourth store, the first step is to ensure you have, or can obtain, the funds to do so. There are essentially two ways to get the money: through self-funding or outside investment.
There are many differences between both sides and this decision will have an enormous impact on your store's growth strategy.
According to Biff Picone, co-owner of Natural Pawz, "when you're self-funded, growing is much different than if you have a checkbook from an equity company." Because you'll be spending out of your own pockets, every decision you make must be carefully balanced with the potential return on investment.
When it comes to having an outside investment, you get the opportunity to work on someone else's money: but that comes at a cost of its own. You may lose a share of your business and the flexibility that comes with being independent. However, it may pay off in the end as your business grows to unimaginable levels.
2. Unique Value Proposition
With the rapid growth of the pet industry in America, every other neighborhood seems to have a new chain of independent pet stores opening up every couple of months. As your competition grows, it's more important than ever to make sure what you're selling is different and more valuable than the pet store down the street.
Once you have the financial capability, stop and ask yourself whether you have the right proposition that can satisfy what customers are looking for and can support your growth throughout your expansion.
3. Scalable Operational Systems
Are you losing track of inventory on a regular basis? Do you have boxes of near-expired dog food in the back that was never able to get put out on the sales floor?
As you expand, any problems with your current operational processes will only be amplified. That's why it's crucial to ensure they are stable before you grow. As you consider expansion, take a look at your customer service and engagement model and perform checks and balances on your inventory.
If your customer engagement isn't set in stone or you're consistently ordering too much, too little, or just the wrong inventory altogether, it's time to make corrections before moving forward with the process.
Most importantly, you can't lose your connection with your customer. If you're like many independent pet stores, you pride yourself on the level of service and dedication you give your consumers. Losing touch of will guarantee that your expansion will fail.
4. Physical and Mental Strength
If you thought owning a single store was hard, just wait until you start opening more. According to Nadine Joli-Coeur, co-owner of Natural Pawz, "what no one realizes when they first open a second store is that it's not double the work, it's much more," and that although it's a fantastic opportunity for your business, "you have to be prepared mentally and physically to basically triple or quadruple your workload."
Although the work will be tough, when done correctly, it's sure to pay off in the long run. To avoid burning out, make sleep a priority even when it seems like you may not have time. Take breaks when you're feeling overwhelmed and set aside 15-30 minutes a day to walk around the block. This will help keep you in the right head space as you take on this challenge.
5. Trained and Engaged Employees
Once you own more than one pet store, it's going to be impossible for you to be in both places at once and at all times. In other words, if you're prone to micro-managing, that's going to be something to let go as you move forward.
To ensure success with your new stores, it's crucial to have the right employees. However, in many markets, hiring and retaining the right employees is often easier said than done.
To hire the right people, consider:
- Hiring hard working entry level staff
- Attracting those who are passionate about customer service, retail and pets
- Being honest about your work culture
- Not hiring someone immediately after meeting them
- Requesting supplemental product information from manufacturer or distributor reps
- Holding a fun and interaction learning session for all employees across multiple stores
- Enrolling your employees in an online training session (such as Pet Store Pro)
To retain them, consider:
- Offering career growth opportunities
- Ensuring work is exciting and challenging
- Making your employees feel like they are making a difference
- Being a boss they can respect
- Giving out recognition for a job well done
6. Branding and Marketing
As your chain grows, so will your brand identity. If you've never considered hiring a designer or brand consultant to design your brand, this is the time to do so.
Your brand's image is what will connect your customer to your brand experience and keep them loyal as you expand your business. It's something they ought to recognize and imagine as soon as they remember they need to buy more dog food.
Leveling up your retail chain is an exciting move for your business, and your brand image should reflect that moving forward. Once you're on to store number two, it's time to ditch that self-made logo and spend the money on a design strategy that will have your customers take you seriously as you grow.
Additionally, drafting up a marketing plan, if you don’t already have one, is the first step toward being successful in marketing your growing business. In this article, we walk you through the seven easy steps it takes to draft up a simple marketing plan for your expanding pet store.
Once you have met all of these considerations, it's a good idea to take the leap now, before your competitors do.
As Mark Kalaygian says in a recent article by Pet Business Magazine, "if you are confident that your business model is unique and scalable, and you have the ability to invest the necessary time, effort and capital to pull off a successful expansion, now may be the right time to pull the trigger."
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashley Hoffman is a freelance content marketer in the pet and design industries. Growing up in the pet industry, she has keen insight on market trends and a passion for helping small businesses grow. Her portfolio includes various topics from pet food trends to using technology and marketing strategies to boost pet business sales. When she's not writing articles or working her day job, she's playing with her two cats (Kitty and Chewbacca), reading a book, or hiking one of Washington's many trails.
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