Letter to Editor, Pet Industry News, February 2008
My name is Richard Sheen. I am 33 years of age and own a small Pet Shop called Everyday Pets located in Sydney’s Inner West.
I have worked in the industry from the age of 16 and have always had a passion for pets and fish. I did work experience at the local pet store that I used to sell budgies to, then wrote a school project about one day owning that very pet store.
Soon after I got a job there, first casual then full-time after I finished school. Seventeen years on and I have owned that very store with my business partner for the past 4 years.
The thing that attracted me to this particular store was the strong livestock focus. It traded in Aviary Birds, Hand Raised Birds, Bunnies, Guinea Pigs, Puppies, Kittens and Fish. With a few more interesting species making appearances here and there, it was what I thought a Pet Shop should be.
I remember a time when a Pet Shop was just that, a store where one could go and purchase pets and their related products. Over the years, particularly in the last five, there has been some alarming trends developing that I think will change our industry for ever.
Ten years ago stores were banding together everywhere to make a stand against distributors that supplied the supermarkets. Why? Because they were seen as a threat to our livelihood.
The supermarkets would steal our product sales and not contribute any real growth to the industry, as they were not selling livestock and therefore weren’t increasing the industries customer base. It seemed nothing was going to stop supermarkets filling their aisles with our products and the issue slowly but surely fell off the radar.
In recent years however, I believe a more serious threat to Pet Shops has evolved. The emergence of huge Pet Product Stores without any Pets! Wholesalers in the main have rushed to supply them and fill their shelves with as much of their own products as possible, without any notable scrutiny or concern from existing Pet Shops.
These product only stores are not unlike the supermarkets, they offer no growth for the Pet Industry, only for suppliers of product. They do not sell pets that would increase the customer base for all stores.
Instead, like the supermarkets, they let others do the hard work sourcing, maintaining and selling livestock, then take over and get the product sales due to their size and low prices.
Where once the industry was all about protecting itself from monopolistic, multinational supermarkets and the wholesalers that supplied them, it seems this new breed of retail store is taking over and no-one has raised an eyebrow.
I don’t suggest that Pet Shops trading in pets should have a monopoly, but it is fast heading the other way. There are fewer and fewer stores around that are continuing to trade in livestock, continuing to grow the industry for everyone.
The wage costs and overheads related to livestock make it very difficult to compete with the big, Pet-less Stores and their discount pricing structure. If more and more stores keep eating from the same cake, whilst fewer stores are contributing to making the cake, there will simply not be enough to go around.
In order for us all to survive and flourish, pet sales need to grow. If the pet less stores continue to dominate, and smaller Pet Shops continue to feel the pinch and close down, the time will come when the whole industry as we know it will come to a crashing halt.
The Pet industry needs to remember the importance of Pet Shops with livestock.
It’s where it all started! Good luck to all.