In today’s hypercompetitive pet products marketplace, where channel-hopping and the rise of e-commerce have blurred the lines of what it means when brands say they are dedicat- ed to pet specialty retailers, it has become harder than ever for independent pet stores to build a selection that helps them stand out from the pack.
But what if there was a pet product brand that was literally made
for your business—a brand that simply cannot be co-opted by mass,
grocery or even big-box and online pet specialty outlets?
That is exactly the idea behind developing a private label program,
a concept that many experts say is catching on like wildfire in the pet
“Private labeling is probably the hottest thing in the industry right
now,” says Daniel Harms, owner of SawMill Creek Smokehouse, a
Bluffton, S.C.-based manufacturer of premium pet treats that special-
izes in helping pet retailers develop their own private-label lines. “I get
emails and calls [from pet retailers] every day.”
But it’s not just anecdotal evidence that is indicating pet retailers’
growing interest in building private-label programs; the trend can also
be seen from a much broader perspective.
According to Maria Lange, business group director of New York-
based market research firm GfK’s Pet POS Tracking team—which
monitors sales in thousands of pet specialty stores—private labeling in
the pet retail industry has “definitely gotten more prevalent year over
year.” And while she does note that the big-box pet chains have driven
a significant portion of private-label growth in the pet industry, Lange
says that neighborhood pet stores are also getting on board.
To Lyndsay Jackson, business manager for Ogden, Utah-based
American Nutrition, a manufacturer that produces a wide variety of
private-label pet food and treats, it is easy to understand why independent pet stores are attracted to the idea of developing their own
“Exclusivity is the name of the game as of late,” she says. “[Pet stores]
Pet specialty retailers of all shapes and sizes are learning that developing
are trying to find ways to differentiate themselves from other retailers.
With e-commerce expanding, brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to
find ways to bring new traffic into their stores and keep their existing
customers from leaving.”
Harms agrees. “[Independent retailers] are having such a hard time
competing against e-commerce and big-box stores. They have to fo-
cus on specializing,” he says. “What better way to do that than creating
their own special line of products.”
Not surprisingly, as more and more pet specialty retailers are explor-
ing the potential that a private-label program can hold for their stores,
the industry is seeing a corresponding rise in the number of manu-
facturers that specialize in building these types of programs. It is a
trend that Natural Pawz owners Biff Picone and Nadine Joli-Coeur
have witnessed firsthand, including at this year’s Global Pet Expo in
a private-label program can be a great way to set their stores apart in an
increasingly competitive marketplace.
BY MARK KALAYGIAN