by Samantha Grant, Pet Specialty Expert & Retail Associate
Pet specialty stores, especially high-quality independent pet stores, are growing increasingly more popular. Pet parents know that businesses that specialize in pet products are the most likely places to find the best foods, toys, and supplies for their animals. As a veteran of the independent pet retail industry, I’ve just about seen it all – and that said, here are the five most commonly asked questions people ask:
1. What’s the best pet food? This seems like an easy question, but it’s actually one of the hardest to answer honestly. Most pet store salespeople have their favorite foods to recommend; best-sellers or foods that have the highest ratings on sites like Amazon, Chewy.com, or DogFoodAdvisor.com. But the truth is that there’s no one “best” food. Some dogs do great on a kibble with quality ingredients, others thrive on a combination of canned and dry foods, while others require a diet reliant on whole or raw foods. A good pet store employee will take the time to ask you questions about your animal, their health history, your preferences and budget in order to help you determine what food is best for your pet.
2. Which food did I get last time? Many small pet specialty stores offer customer loyalty programs, and these can include helping you keep track of the foods you buy. If you have a hard time remembering what food your pet eats but don’t want to risk upset tummies due to a sudden switch, selecting a pet retailer who can help you keep track of your purchases is a great choice. Dogs and cats often benefit from rotating flavors (for example: beef one month, fish the next), but generally only when you’re sticking within the same brand for consistent quality, and comparable protein, fat, and carbohydrate levels.
3. Can you recommend a good…? Veterinarian? Groomer? Pet Hotel? Trainer? Dog Walker? Pet specialty stores are a perfect place to ask about related pet professionals and services. Most independent stores will keep the business cards of people or services they recommend, or else employees may have had experiences with the kinds of businesses you’re interested in.
4. What treats or toys do you recommend? Whether your dog is a power chewer, or your feline is fussy, there are a plethora of fantastic toys and treats in today’s pet specialty stores. Be sure to read labels and select chew toys or treats according to your pet’s size, life stage, and chewing or play preferences. Pet store employees usually have their own animals and can tell you what their pets have enjoyed and which treats or toys may not be appropriate for your fur-children.
5. What’s the best product for…? Flea control? De-shedding? Deodorizing? The answer to the last one is easy (hint: It’s Skout’s Honor!). Just as with food, treats, and toys, pet specialty retailers hear all about what is (and isn’t) working for their customers. Best-selling items are usually best-sellers for a good reason; even if a product is cheaper than the competition, people tend not to repeatedly purchase items that don’t meet their expectations. Finding out what the store’s employees use, and what their customers rave about is the easiest way to determine if a product is likely to meet your needs.