by Steve King, President, Pet Industry Distributors Association
Published in Pet Age magazine

Independent pet stores don’t know their own strength. That’s no surprise, since few attempts have been made to measure the impact that independents have on pet product sales—until now that is.

The Pet Industry Distributors Association (PIDA) recently conducted a survey of the association’s fifty-five member distributors to gauge the size of the market they serve. The results were eye-opening, and demonstrate the vitality of the independent channel. PIDA members have annual sales of $3 billion at wholesale, which conservatively translates to $4.13 billion in retail sales (assuming an average of 35% gross profit).

To put this in perspective, pet product retail sales are $35 billion annually, according to the American Pet Products Association. Pet specialty (defined as Petsmart, Petco and other regional chains plus independent pet stores) has a 25% share of pet product sales. $4.13 billion in sales means that independents account for more than 45% of the products sold in the pet specialty channel.

Sales data in the pet industry is notoriously hard to come by, so it is not unreasonable to quibble with the percentage breakdown of pet product sales between mass, big box and independent outlets. Nonetheless, few other consumer product sectors are supported by such a robust number of entrepreneurial enterprises as are found in the pet industry.

PIDA Distributors Deliver!

Why hasn’t the retail pet industry gone the way of office supplies, hardware, craft and hobby, and many other consumer product channels that once supported thousands of independent stores? One reason may be the network of wholesaler-distributors whose sole aim is to help keep independent pet stores strong and growing. PIDA’s fifty-five regional distributors operate 124 distribution centers throughout North America, comprising an astonishing 9.5 million square feet of warehouse space.

More than 6,700 dedicated distributor employees purchase, pick, pack and deliver 190,000 pet product SKUs that are destined for the shelves of independent pet stores. More than 600 field sales professionals call on customers every day helping store owners and managers identify the newest trends and hottest items. Many distributors also provide marketing and merchandising support to their customers, often at little or no cost.

Distributors also bring their customers face-to-face with pet product manufacturers through 98 regional trade shows and open houses conducted annually. This allows store owners and employees to see new products, discuss product issues with manufacturers, and recommend new items that consumers would buy. The formula works—more than 39,000* pet store employees attended distributor trade shows in 2012!

There’s one more way that distributors support independent pet stores. For the past five years, PIDA has sponsored Pet Store Pro®, the industry’s only free, online training program. Pet Store Pro provides consistent, reliable training for owners, managers and employees through twenty-four chapters covering everything from animal care to customer service, nutrition, merchandising and retail management. 3,400 pet retailers now use Pet Store Pro, and more than 14,500 employees have been trained to be more knowledgeable and trusted resources for the customers of independent pet stores.

Pet product distributors will continue to seek ways to work with independent pet stores to keep them competitive and a vital part of the retailing landscape. Ask your distributor how you can take advantage of all of the value-added services that he offers.

*Many retailers attend multiple distributor shows.

Steven King, CAE is president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association. He has served as PIDA’s chief staff executive since 1989. He also serves as executive director of the Pet Care Trust. Prior to joining PIDA, King served as assistant general counsel for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council in Washington, D.C. He lives in Maryland with his wife Jackie and Frank the dog.