Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved dog and cat foods are both produced by Crown Petfoods. Crown have just held an invitaion only independant retailers forum event near their head quarters in Somerset.
Each of their Sales reps were asked to invite thier top retailers to the event, with places limited to only 100 Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved retailers UK wide. We were invited to attend and Kim represented us at the event.
Included over the two days of the event were seminars by some of the countries top retail specialists, including Mary Potas, from a variety of disciplines (internet marketing, POS instore marketing, social media etc.). These people were their to give guidance and advice to the retailers present on how to keep their businesses relevant and competitive in an ever changing market place.
Kim came away with a few main impressions of the event and of Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved. Firstly a big positve for us. At one point one of the speakers asked the audience “who is doing all that we have discussed here already”. No one was, except – yes, that’s right, us. Whilst this was a big feather in our cap, unfortunately what Kim came away with was a disappointing impression of the bulk of the independants as being very resistant to change, negative about any advice given on how to move with the times and having an incredibly short sighted view of their industry. She is convinced that most only went along for the free entertainment and bar and completely missed the point of the event which was to help their businesses survive.
On a more positive note she also gained an appreciation of how much others are doing to try to support independant retailers. For example Mary Portas’s campaign to reduce the rediculously high business rates that are crippling small businesses (on our small shop, in a suburban location, they are nearly £700 a month! – and they don’t even empty your bins for that – that has to be done privately at extra cost).
Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved themselves are trying to educate and provide support to their retailers. Sadly a lot of this support seems to be inspite of the retailers themselves rather than alongside them. I am the first to complain (and have to Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved) about the unfairness of trying to compete with unlicenced, unqualified, non business rate and tax paying, amateur internet traders and with supermarkets who have no interest in pets or their owners other than to take their money. But when someone is trying to do the right thing and offer support we should work with them rather than throw their help back in their face, as seems to have happened at this event organised for us by Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved.
To finish on a positive note, Kim also had a tour of the factory and she left there very impressed with the cleanliness of the factory itself and the dedication of the staff she met. Defintely not what you would expect from a factory making food for pets and from her description, cleaner than some of the human food manufacturing sites I used to visit when I was a fork lift engineer.
So thank you to Crown ( Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved ) for putting on the event and entertainment (and appologies to Steven K Amos for the drunken, racist moron Kim was unfortunate enough to find herself on a table with during the evening). Some of us appreciated the support for our sector and realise that the value an independant offers over the less able online sellers out there needs to be shown to people for them to realise it.
So what do we offer then, I suppose is the next logical question to ask ourselves. Well, we have an active social media presence where our customers can interact with us and engage in conversation with us at their convenience and this is a good starting point. Information (this blog) and advice on issues important to our customers. A You Tube channel. Qualified and experienced staff (look at what George has been up to so far this year, studying on an African game reserve and working on EU sponsored conservation projects on the other side of the world) who know what they are talking about and who are willing to impart that knowledge when asked. Free home delivery in our locality and low delivery rates further afield. A well stocked shop and access to an even wider range of products through our extensive network of suppliers coupled with knowledge about the products we supply (we are trained and qualified Royal Canin and James Wellbeloved nutritional advisors). Extra services such as micro chipping, nail clipping, sexing of animals, water testing, advice on pet health care. A webstore with all the stock available instore plus a lot more that we can’t put on the shelves because of space. Convenient opening times (we are still open for the afterwork shoppers) and convenient local delivery times (in the evening when you are in, rather than during the day when you are out at work. school etc.). A free education service to local schools and clubs – school talks, fetes, parties etc.
Lastly we are contactable (telephone, two websites, email, facebook and I suppose if you really wanted, snail mail) and of course we actually have a premises you can visit and a face (even if it is mine) you can talk to if needed. In a world where you are becoming further and further away from the decision makers and persons in authority (try making a complaint to a large company and you will see what I mean) this is a very valuable asset.
So in what is a very competitive market I think we have a lot to offer. We may not always be the cheapest (although we very often are!) but I have always thought and Kim now thinks too, after seeing some of the others, that we are one of the best. If this seems like blowing my own trumpet, well – I don’t really do shy and retiring I suppose, now do I ?
Richard Angell and The Angel Pets Team