How to Start a Pet Supply Store
Years ago I started a pet supply store; I strongly disagree with the cruel industry of mass breeding of pets for the “pet store” industry so did not sell pets. I want to share with you my knowledge gained through experience and education.
Research the Need
If your area already has oodles of pet supply stores there will be very little need for another. To be clear a pet supply store is not the same as a Wal-Mart or other department type store that sells supplies, a pet supply store carries higher quality products and superior pet food, so even in areas with department stores that sell pet supplies the need may still be there for a proper pet supply store.
Your city hall might have information on how many cat and dog owners (according to licenses sold) are in your city or area and this may prove helpful in establishing a need.
Determine who your target customer is, and be aware that it is not “Everybody that owns a pet”.
Leasing a Location Location Location
Your city hall will have information on how much traffic is on each city road regularly, and this information can help you pick a good location for your business. Of course it must be said that rents in prime areas will tend to be higher. Figure out what the cost is per square foot and if there are common area costs. Be sure you know what your rent/lease includes. If it includes heat and electricity it may be a good value compared with a similar cost that does not include these. Make sure you get a lease agreement, and have it checked by a landlord. Note that if you lease a space in a shopping mall your lease may dictate your days/hours. Make sure your location has parking as well as an area for deliveries and storage.
Make a Business Plan – Getting a Loan
If you do not have your own funds to start a business you must get a loan from a bank. They will require a business plan. You must give a description of the space you intend to lease, and what you intend to sell, staffing needs, and so forth. These are typically several pages long. The bank will also want you to indicate the need for such a service.
Part of your Business Plan should be your “Mission Statement”, a one or two sentence claim about what your business is as a whole. For example “Animal Avenue is designed to serve the needs of caring pet owners in this area of the city of______. We will focus on healthy food and products and not sell or exploit pets." The bank will also want to know who your target customer is, and so forth.
Even if you have your own funds and do not need the loan, the work you put into making the business plan is well worth it.
You need to pick a name and register it, being sure it is not already in use. You will need to get a business license and in some areas further registration for taxes and payroll. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a good resource to get you started if you are unsure what you need or where you need to go.
photo source - A store in Norway (not my store)
Finding Wholesalers and Suppliers
Wholesalers sell products only to retailers who then mark up the products for sale. Pet food is needed to bring people back regularly but has a lower mark up (important so you do not have unsold food on your selves). Pet supplies are typically marked up by double or slightly more.
Your local competition is not going to tell you who they buy their supplies from, but stores in other cities might. You can do Internet search engine checks for “Pet supply Wholesaler” and “Pet Food Wholesaler”.
Some areas have “Pet Fairs” and Pet specific Trade Shows where you may find suppliers.
If you know what kind of pet foods you will be selling, contacting the company and seeing who supplies retailers with the food might also get you some leads on wholesalers. Some pet food companies will supply you will shelves for their food, otherwise you must find shelving.
Décor for your Pet Supply Store
Shelving can be purchased from specialty stores that sell retail fixtures and such, some of these stores will sell used fixtures. Try to have fixtures that are fairly uniform in each area of the store as it adds to the look of the store.
You may want to paint the walls or even wall paper them. (This is one area I failed miserably as I was unaware of what to do, but have since worked in a well decorated gift store and realized I could have done so much more to my little pet supply store).
Sell premium pet food; this is not the food you find in grocery stores, it is good food that caring pet owners will seek out – make sure the pet food lists you as a supplier on their websites “location finder”.
Sell at least 2 or 3 different brands of cat and dog food, offering many flavors of each.
Become super knowledgeable on pet food ingredients and brands, as such you can tell people why the brand you sell are so superior.
Get a dog groomer to rent space from you, or employ one, this brings customers into your store regularly. (*This did more to help my business than any one other thing)
Your wholesaler for pet food will typically credit you for unsold bags past their “sell by” date, make friends with your local animal shelter by donating these foods to them.
Ideally pass coupons on to your local shelter to give out with adoptions encouraging people to come to your store (shelters that sell products may not do this but some shelters will).
Keep Staff expenses to a minimum to start. It is easy to get excited and hire too many employees. To begin with you want to do most of the work yourself.
Your grand opening should be one month later than you actually open, allowing you to fix all your hitches and work out the bugs.
Form good relationships with your local SPCA, or humane society, having a jar to collect change to donate to them, and offer them a place to showcase an animal or two during your grand opening.
Offer a few gift items for people who love pets too!
Many businesses do not make a profit in their start up years. Be sure you have capital to pull you through these tough times. By your third year you should start to see a strong profit, if not you need to rethink your plans.