Winner of the Good Retail Awards’ Bricks ‘n’ Clicks Award, Healthy Pet Store, has created a stand-out omnichannel retail experience. Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with Deborah Burrows, Managing Director of Healthy Pet Store about her inspirational retail journey.
Meet Healthy Pet Store
Known by many as the ‘home of waggy tails’, Healthy Pet Store provides excellent customer service by creating fun social media and instore initiatives to inform, advise and educate customers. Their impressive omnichannel retail presence has enabled Health Pet Store to take their vision of becoming the UK’s largest single retailer of frozen fresh foods for meat-eating pets and turn it into a £1m reality.
To provide a seamless customer experience across all channels, the team at Healthy Pet Store found innovative ways to engage with customers and suppliers alike. Running monthly advice clinics on social media, the #AskAnnika hashtag allows followers to ask questions to a canine nutrition certified member of staff, giving customers access to expert advice, as well as being able to get quick responses to any other questions they have. Healthy Pet Store’s creativity was demonstrated with their red carpet fashion ‘catwalk’ for dogs, to showcase its new arrival of the autumn/winter Pomppa doggy jackets. This fantastic campaign gained local and national attention, impressing passersby as well as appearing in national and local press.
Healthy Pet Store has achieved continuous growth, setting the bar high for omnichannel retail to engage with new customers. Alongside achieving their goal of becoming a £1m business, they are growing at a rapid rate, delivering to customers around the country, as well as keeping their store open until 8pm to keep up with demand.
How it began
The journey of Healthy Pet Store began when Deborah noticed a gap in the market. Struggling to find suitable food for her dogs nearby, she began her journey, stepping into the world of retail.
“I had the idea for around two months before I launched. I had the thought and knew there was a shop that had been empty for ages. My dogs are the drivers behind the business as I was travelling quite some way for their frozen raw food and I knew others were doing the same. I already had a dog training background, so it tied in together perfectly and it fitted with my interest in their nutrition and wellbeing. We put some secondhand freezers in there at the time and that was the beginning of everything.”
Establishing themselves in the community
The team at Healthy Pet Store have established themselves as a key part of the community, being respected by experts in the area, as well as being loved by customers and their pets. Deborah explained the ways that she created an outstanding customer experience.
“Building relationships with our customers and their pets is one of the main reasons we do what we do. We call ourselves the ‘home of waggy tails’ because dogs get free treats if they would like them. We have happy customers and dogs, which means everything to us. Customers feel really relaxed here because we make the experience special. We try and remember dogs’ names and recognise them, as well as what they like. Our customer advisors are great and we have a wonderful store manager, who is so professional and welcoming. We have a supermarket feel instore in terms of efficiency, but you’re recognised, greeted and we are very careful with the way we approach customers, not to descend upon customers the second they enter the store, like some places.
“We make a lot of connections with local trainers, physiotherapists and such a community around dogs and cats, as it’s so important for us to get to know everybody. We are very collaborative and try to work with others wherever possible. We’re forever making sure our knowledge is up to date which is why we are affiliated and respected by trainers in the local area and why we are recommended by so many.”
Having started out small and growing to become an enormous success, Healthy Pet Store faced challenges when scaling up to meet demand.
“It wasn’t ever intended to be as big as it’s become. The business started as a great idea that was designed to be beneficial for dogs and cats. Then after a while it became a more profitable business, but it all started on the foundations of helping customers. If we’d known we had such a big future ahead of us, we would have done things differently. Technology has been the one big challenges for us. We would have chosen a website, EPOS and ecommerce platforms that were able to integrate, investing in the tech that would have behaved more like a typical supermarket. We have worked very hard to be able to provide a seamless experience and properly integrated system. It’s definitely worth thinking about at the start, because I’m still looking at ways to do this without the large budgets of supermarkets. Things like stock control and being able to track real-time inventory and allowing customers to order products while they’re available instore are a challenge.”
Running Healthy Pet Store has not been without its challenges. Deborah explained
“Four years ago my husband left me and the business in quite a mess. I had to pick up the pieces of the business with creditors knocking on my door, which was extremely disconcerting. Through sheer resilience and the support of my family, we got through it and are better than we ever have been. My mum is 78, but still potters around and loves to do bits and pieces in the shop. Her support is what got me through the darkest hours.”
Steps that have boosted Healthy Pet Store’s success
Creating a successful omnichannel retail experience for customers has been made possible by Deborah’s dedication to continuously improving the business.
Building the right team
“The challenge with a fast-growing company is that we have to find people that are keen to muck in. We need the type of person who’s willing to learn dog training concepts, as well as being efficient at processing customers at the till. We get lots of people from supermarkets apply which is good because they realise the importance of efficiency. We also get people from other pet shops which is great because they bring knowledge. We have an absolutely wonderful outsourced HR department who bring technology with them. You also have a really good employee recognition scheme. It’s not good enough now to just offer a good wage. You have to offer a package of benefits to keep and bring in the best people.”
“When our staff arrive, they get paid to learn as it’s so important to be up to date with our knowledge. We’ve been able to use technology from our outsourced HR department so that when staff arrive, they can do their modules at home on job-specific topics like harness fitting, body language training, how to help dogs relax and standardised raw feeding modules, as well as the typical health and safety stuff. I used to try and individually train all of the team myself, but bringing this online and utilising technology has worked so well to have a consistent message throughout the business.”
Looking to the future
Deborah continues to grow her omnichannel retail business, utilising her own passion and knowledge, while tapping into the advice of experts to take Healthy Pet Store to the next level.
“I’m working with a business coach, which was a big leap for me, as you have to invest into it. He has been absolutely amazing so far for advice, helping me to understand my business in ways I’ve never understood it. We also have a new website on the horizon. Maintaining that close relationship with our customers and their pets is so important to us. The bigger we get, with more stores hopefully, we will maintain the same community feel as well as remaining close with the local dog communities.”
Winning at the Good Retail Awards
Deborah spoke of her experience winning the Bricks ‘n’ Clicks Category of the Good Retail Awards and what it means to the team at Healthy Pet Store.
“We’re thrilled. We have had so many likes on Facebook and Instagram. At about 11pm the other night, I was still replying to people thanking them for their comments. It’s been the biggest reach of posts we’ve ever had by far. We’ve never had anything on this scale and this recognition is going to go a long way to help us expand.”
See Healthy Pet Store’s omnichannel retail presence
Holly brings a wealth of experience in both print and digital publishing. As Modern Retail’s Content Editor, Holly is passionate about helping independent retailers to thrive in today’s ever-changing market.