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LIVING WITH PETS (Ark Blog)

Friday, April 4, 2014


Dog Rescued by The Humane Society Naples Benefits

from Generosity of Local Pet Business

Ark Naturals steps up to pay for life-saving heart surgery for "Peanut"


Naples, FL - When Peanut, a four month-old Chihuahua mix dog arrived at The Humane Society Naples, he was just like any other of the thousands of pets the no-kill shelter rescues each year. During his veterinary exam, it was discovered that the dog exhibited a loud heart murmur.  Fearing the worst, Dr. Rob Fox, Medical Director at the Humane Society, ordered an echocardiogram of the dog in order to make a complete diagnosis.

Upon consultation with specialists and review of the diagnosis, it was determined that Peanut's long-term prognosis was poor. The dog was determined to be at risk for heart failure or even a sudden death. However, balloon valvuloplasty (an expensive heart surgery) was an option if the needed funds to pay for the procedure could be found. 

The Humane Society Naples contacted veterinary professionals at Specialized Veterinary Services and arranged for a discounted surgery fee for Peanut.  At that same time, the shelter reached out to Ark Naturals, a Naples-based leading manufacturer of health, remedy and lifestyle solutions for pets. The company has been a supporter of the no-kill shelter for many years.

Susan and Jay Weiss, owners of Ark Naturals, had just recently lost their own precious pooch named "Lily Perez." The Havanese was a special needs rescue herself, and the Weiss Family was still in grief over the loss of their beloved pet. It was when they learned that they could help another rescued pet overcome its own special need they made the generous offer to pay the cost of the surgery for Peanut.

He underwent a very successful surgery and initial recovery, and volunteers and staff at The Humane Society Naples are helping to continue his care until he will be adopted by a forever family. The dog is currently meeting many potential adopting families at the HSN Satellite Adoption Center at the Coastland Center Mall.

The shelter is currently accepting donations to help continue to provide veterinary care for other rescued pets that require significant veterinary care before adoption to the general public.  To donate, please contact Andy Reed, Director of Development at (239) 643-1555 Ext. 21 or visit www.hsnaples.org. 

Peanut now awaits his forver home.

Organized in 1960, The Humane Society Naples is a private local non-profit animal welfare organization. Its mission is to provide animals shelter in times of need, locate lifelong homes and promote responsible pet ownership through education, legislation and sterilization. Located at 370 Airport-Pulling Road in Naples, The Humane Society's Adoption Center hours are: Tuesday and Thursday 11am to 7pm and Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm. A Satellite Adoption Site located at the Coastland Center Mall in Naples is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 9pm and Sunday from noon until 6pm. For additional information, visit The Humane Society Naples online at www.HSNaples.org or call (239) 643-1555.

 

ABOUT ARK NATURALS

Ark Naturals Products for Pets was incorporated in Florida in 1996. Ark Naturals® is dedicated to provide pet guardians with natural options, and an opportunity to be proactive when caring for their pets.  All Ark® products are premium and of course human grade. Part of our mission is to educate the consumer. Ark ® provides pet owners with scientific information that is clear and easy to understand. Our belief is that pet owners will choose natural alternatives when they understand the choice between natural and chemically adulterated products. Our goal is to not only develop products that allow our family of pets to enjoy a better quality of life, but also to allow their owners to rest assured that they have cared for their pets in the best possible way. For a list of our products please visit: www.arknaturals.com

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"New to the market is Ark Natural’s BREATH-LESS Brushless Toothpaste and Fizzy Plaque Zapper.

Brushless Toothpaste chews are filled with the company’s patented StayC50 toothpaste. The chews also contain breath-freshening ingredients like cinnamon, vanilla, clove and chlorophyll. The Plaque-Zapper contains enzymes that are activated by mouth saliva, which changes the pH level and deters the growth of oral bacteria.

“Pet owners simply empty a packet of Plaque-Zapper into a pet’s drinking water to help prevent dental decay, plaque, tartar and bad breath,” Susan Weiss, CEO of Ark Naturals, said. “It is odorless, tasteless and colorless and will not change a pet’s drinking or eating habits.”

Article from Pet Age Magazine Read more: http://www.petage.com/dental-hygiene-pays-dividends/

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Remembering Lily Perez.. Ark Naturals Official Bark Person

Written by: Susan Weiss

Somewhere in 2002 a severely abused rescue dog came into our life.  She came into our life via Pet Finder who connected us with Pekes and Pals Rescue, Fort Myers FL - They really didn’t know too much about her.  We decided to build her a ‘biography’.   They called her Sara but we changed her name to Lily Perez… as Perez in Cuba is like Smith in the USA –We decided to give her a first name and a last name.  We also gave her a birthday .

When we filled out the application to adopt her, Pekes and Pals shared some info about his dog.  She was abused. She was a fear biter.  She could be aggressive if frightened.  She had a low threshold for anxiety….. and she was extremely pretty,  a Havanese (maybe  Havanese with a little something else) and would we be interested in meeting her.

A few years earlier I had fallen in love with the Havanese breed – and even with all the problematic information I was given,  I was off and running to Pekes and Pals to meet her. 

The rescue organization carefully told me – she was a handful…. beginning with the simplest task of putting a collar on her and attaching a leash.  Lily and I went home that night, I introduced her to her dad (Jay) and we became a family of 3.

Lily was never the perfect dog.   But with patience and a real understanding of what she must have gone through we were able to love her, respect her boundaries and have a great life.

About 2 years ago her kidneys began to fail.  Additionally she had symptoms of hypertension.  With excellent veterinary care (Dr Victor Brown, DVM Brown Veterinary Clinic,  Naples, FL) and following his instructions to the letter we were able to get her into a holding pattern.   Life with Lily was pretty OK until about a month ago – Dr Brown did some more tests and told us her kidneys were in very bad shape.  We were prepared to do whatever it took to help her.  We did acupuncture, aquapuncture, IV fluids daily, Chinese herbs and a new special diet.

Despite all our efforts we were not able to stabilize her and she continued to go downhill. At the end Lily was not Lily- She didn’t care who held her (BTW she also hated being touched by strangers). We realized we had to think of her and let her cross the Rainbow Bridge.

With us at her side till the last minute, Lily Perez crossed the Rainbow Bridge on Tuesday January 28th 2014.

Our home is weird without her. I’ve washed her bed and bowls.  I went through her toys and decided which ones to keep and together Jayand I made a decision that the best way to honor Lily is to rescue another dog – so we are now focused on bringing another Havanese rescue into our life.

Why am I writing all this?  Part of this is to honor Lily and part of this is to let you know that rescuing an abused dog is not an easy trick.  However, if you have patience, an open heart and financial resources it is very doable.  Would I adopt Lily again knowing that Lily was a difficult dog with very special needs?  Definitely!

I hope when you consider adding a dog or a cat to your life you will always think RESCUE! 

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Friday, November 15, 2013

In the November 2013 Issue of Pet Business featured Ark Naturals Breath-Less Brushless-Toothpaste and our Breath-Less Fizzy Plaque Zapper in the Product Round Up for Oral Care!

View the full article here:

Brushless Toothpaste and Fizzy Plaque Zapper, from Ark Naturals (arknaturals.com) provide the benefits of brushing without the hassle. Brushless-Toothpaste chews are filled with the company’s patented STAY-CTM Toothpaste. The chews also have breath-freshening ingredients like cinnamon, vanilla, clove and chlorophyll. They are free of wheat, gluten, soy, corn, and artificial colors and flavors. Brushless-Toothpaste comes in mini, small/medium, medium/large sizes. Fizzy Plaque Zapper helps maintain saliva’s natural pH. Pet owners simply empty a packet into a pet’s drinking water to help prevent dental decay, plaque, tartar and bad breath. It contains natural enzymes including lysozyme, lactoferrin, and petizyme. It is odorless, tasteless and colorless and will not change a pet’s drinking or eating habits.


Article and Images courtesy of Pet Business.

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Friday, November 1, 2013

Just yesterday, (10/31/2013) Florida Weekly published an article to help share Hansa Rose's story with Southwest Florida in hope of finding Hansa Rose her forver home.

Please share this story on your social media sites and with friends to help join the efforts!

Wanted: A home for Hansa Rose

Hansa Rose has been in foster care with Brooke’s Legacy Animal Rescue for almost two years. She’s been a favorite canine in the animal-assisted play therapy program at PACE Center for Girls-Collier at Immokalee, but now she’s ready for a permanent place.

Karen Hill of Brooke’s Legacy suspects Hansa Rose was a “bait dog,” one that is chained or otherwise confined and set against another dog for sport. The right side of her face doesn’t match the left (the right eye is there, but it’s set way back), and she has very few teeth. Ms. Hill estimates the lovable boxer/Labrador mix is about 3 years old. She has been spayed.

Whatever mistreatment she suffered in the past has not damaged Hansa Rose’s disposition, however, she loves people and is OK with cats (other dogs tend to upset her).

Brooke’s Legacy thanks Ark Naturals Products for Pets for sponsoring the effort to place Hansa Rose in a permanent home. For more information call: (239) 434-7480 or e-mail Admin@BrookesLegacyAnimalRescue.org or visit www.brookeslegacyanimalrescue.com

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Hansa Rose Needs a Forever Home!

Ark Naturals and Gray Muzzle have paired with Brooke’s Legacy Animal Rescue here in Naples, Florida to find this special dog her very own forever home. Hansa Rose is a 3 year old spayed female Boxer mix saved by Brooke’s Legacy Animal Rescue shortly before she was to be euthanized and we have decided to sponsor Hansa Rose’s adoption contribution to an approved adopter*!

Hansa is a real special, sweet girl. Her face is a little different on one side – she has very few teeth and her right eye is there but set way back. Brooke’s Legacy isn’t sure exactly what happened to her, but she is a very sweet girl who has been through a lot and really deserves her own happy ending.

Hansa has been doing Animal Assisted Play Therapy at the PACE Center for Girls in Immokalee. She loves people, forgiving all the abuse she has suffered. This is a great dog that has been overlooked. She can be overwhelmed by other dogs but is OK with cats.

Help us SHARE this great cause on Facebook, Twitter, and all social media sites to Help us find this beautiful, sweet, loving girl her own forever home.


Please visit BrookesLegacyAnimalRescue.org for more information about adopting her into your home.

  

*All approved adopters must be present in person to complete the adoption. Brooke’s Legacy does not ship animals.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

After recent news reports regarding Pet Jerky Treats with imported chicken from China have caused illness and death to some animals, we've received an overwhelming response from our customers. We're here to put our customers at ease and rest assure that Ark Naturals and Gray Muzzle, all products including our Sea Mobility Joint Rescue in all flavors are and always will be 100% Made in the USA.

Below is a note, straight from the desk of Ark Naturals President, Susan Weiss:


For Immediate Release:

HERE WE GO AGAIN – MADE IN CHINA JERKY TREATS –

CAUSING ILLNESS AND FATALITIES

Once again, Chinese Pet Jerky Treats are causing serious illness as well as fatalities. I thought this problem was behind us, but here we go again……Once again the problem has surfaced. Purportedly, nearly 3,600 dogs the first time and now hundreds more have fallen ill or died. We wonder why retailers continue to keep these products on store shelves, on on-line sites and in pet catalogues.

I write this article today to try and reach the pet owners who have not yet heard or do not know the severity of the risk associated with Chinese jerky products for pets.

Today the phone calls and e-mails began again asking “What about Ark Naturals?”  We assure you that all Ark Naturals and now our new senior brand - Gray Muzzle, have always been made in the USA in USDA/APHIS facilities and/or FDA/OTC facilities.

Regarding the made in China products, the situation is so serious that once again the FDA has issued a cautionary statement warning of the risk in consumption by pets of chicken jerky treats imported from China. The FDA urges pet owners to use caution with regard to chicken jerky products, stating that if pet owners choose to give their pets these products to look for the following warning signs and to contact your veterinarian if these symptoms persist beyond 24 hours.

There is increasing pressure building for the FDA to take action.  Currently, the FDA’s website states that ‘scientists have not been able to determine a definitive cause for the reported illnesses… and that, ‘unless a contaminant is detected and we have evidence that a product is adulterated, we are limited in what regulatory actions we can take’.   FDA is advising consumers who choose to feed their dogs chicken jerky products to watch their dogs closely for any or all of the following signs that may occur within hours to days of feeding the products, and to contact your veterinarian if these symptoms persist beyond 24 hours:

  • decreased appetite
  • decreased activity
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea, sometimes with blood
  • increased water consumption and/or
  • increased urination

How to know if the products you purchase for your pet are Made in the USA?

By law, products NOT manufactured in the USA must disclose that on the label.  However, the manufacturer can print this using the smallest size print possible and can place that information in a place you may never see it unless you look carefully.

After reading this, it is my hope that pet guardians will choose not to take the risk with their beloved pets and choose pet products that are made in the USA.  We as a company feel strongly about both the quality of products made in the USA and the fact that we don’t outsource our workforce.  Please read labels.  Your pet’s life could depend on it.  

 


About Ark Naturals® and Gray Muzzle

Founded by Susan and Jay Weiss in 1996 and based in Naples, Florida, Ark Naturals® offers natural health, remedy and lifestyle products for pets.  All of Ark Naturals products are made in the USA in either USDA/APHIS registered manufacturing facilities or FDA/OTC facilities, depending on the product. Our ingredients are sourced from human grade raw material suppliers, specially formulated for pets. We guarantee our products contain no artificial additives, dyes, flavor, yeast, soy, irradiation or harmful preservatives. Ark Naturals products are veterinarian recommended and formulated and meet the exacting standards that are a hallmark of our company.

In 2012, Ark launched a second stand-alone brand known as Gray Muzzle.  Gray Muzzle products address the needs of senior pets.

Ark Naturals now has over forty different all natural pet products and is a founding member of the NASC® with an audited A+ rating.  Ark Naturals is also a member of the NPA® (Natural Products Association and APPMA®.  For distribution inquiries, product information and publicity inquiries please call Alexa Taddeo, 800.926.5100 or alexat@arknaturals.com.  Please visit our web sites www.arknaturals.com and www.gray-muzzle.com for more information.

 

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pick up your copy of the Pet Business Retailer Handbook and turn to page 64 and 65. Ark Naturals since 1996 has taken the Natural Health and Remedies category by storm. Read below the full article on Ark Naturals, including a snippet about our Gray Muzzle Senior Products Line.

Enjoy!

  

Natural Remedies and Health

Susan Weiss, president of Ark Naturals Products for Pets, says educated retailers with a variety of natural health products for everyday problems will see great sales over the next year.

 

WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR NATURAL REMEDIES AND HEALTH PRODUCTS THAT CONSUMERS ARE GIVING THEIR PETS? WHY DO YOU THINK THEY’RE SO POPULAR?

Dental, joint, flea and tick, and herbal calming products – Products that are popular tend to be products from which the human can visually see a benefit. Products that are less popular are the vitamins, antioxidants for exactly the same reason. The benefit is hard to measure and see visually. It’s not because the products are ineffective, it’s because the nature of the antioxidants.

 

WHAT TREND SHOULD RETAILERS LOOK FOR IN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS?

Great Sales! Education, blogs, websites and social media have made it much easier for the consumer to feel more comfortable purchasing natural remedy products.

I believe that now is a great opportunity for retailers to re-set their stores and make this category more visually important. Make it easy for the consumer to see what the retailer has to offer. The most successful retailers are the ones that are nimble, adaptable and wiling to think outside the box.

 

HOW IMPORTANT IS EDUCATION IN THIS CATEGORY? WHAT ARE KEY SELLING POINTS RETAILERS SHOULD KNOW FOR THESE PRODUCTS?

In 1996, when I started Ark Naturals, it was a monumental challenge to convince retailers that remedy, wellness and natural lifestyle products could sell. Many of today’s retailers have not been in business long enough to remember that.

Products that are made in the USA and are natural solutions for everyday problems should be emphasized. More importantly, retailers have to do the same thing as their customers and should be educated and read blogs and manufacturer websites. You can’t sell what you don’t understand.

 

WITH ALL OF THE “GREENWASHING” THAT GOES ON TODAY, HOW CAN RETAILERS ENSURE THAT THE PRODUCTS THEY CARRY ARE TRULY NATURAL?

There is no definition for natural. It’s the same thing for foods that label themselves “premium”. They are self-styled words, sort of like crowning yourself the prettiest girl at the party. All-natural is another issue. For example, glucosamine and chondroitin are not really natural. Natural is something that grows on a tree or in the earth, and glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM and others are neutraceuticals, which is something that started out from a natural source.

 

WHAT SHOULD RETAILERS LOOK FOR IN A SUPPLIER OF NATURAL REMEDIES AND HEALTH PRODUCTS?

The company’s longevity – The category suddenly got hot, and we see new brands. Most of the “newbies” are only in it because it’s become popular – not because they have a passion for helping animals naturally. The few companies that have been around for years are passionate about the potential of natural. We understand the potential benefits and can talk about it more easily than the newbies.

 

WHAT IS THE BEST WAY FOR RETAILERS TO MERCHANDISE THESE PRODUCTS?

Endcaps – one suggestion is a monthly calendar where the retailer features a different issue each month. Handouts pointing the consumers to information would be helpful. Network with vets and nutrition specialists, and ask them to come to your store. Also, don’t be lazy – re-setting your store multiple times in a year freshens up the store.

 

WHAT TYPES OF PRODUCTS LEND THEMSELVES TO CROSS MERCHANDISING WITH THE NATURAL REMEDIES AND HEALTH PRODUCTS?

We just introduced a line of senior products, branded as Gray Muzzle. We have a contest running across the USA for stores to set up exactly what you are talking about.

Most of us who have a senior dog or cat for the first time what to do the right things for their pets but may not know everything that is available in the senior category. So, ramps, special leashes, softer toys, special shampoos, piddle pads, etc…, would be a great fit with Gray Muzzle.


Article and Graphics Courtesy of Pet Business Magazine

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

If you've had the chance to pick up the September 2013 Issue of Pet Age Magazine you'll notice Ark Naturals and Gray Muzzle featured! Pet Age recently sat down with Susan Weiss, Owner/President of Ark Naturals, about her passion for the natural products industry, why it’s become so popular and her advice for others.

    


Full Story Below:


Back Story | Ark Naturals

A Pioneer of Natural Products

Reference: Pet Age Magazine September 2013 Issue

When Susan Weiss started her business, the word “natural” wasn’t a household saying.

We recently spoke with Susan Weiss, owner of Ark Naturals, about her passion for the natural products industry, why it’s become so popular and her advice for others.

Q: Tell us a little about Ark Naturals.

Weiss: Ark Naturals is solely owned by myself and my husband Jay. We founded the company in 1996, when no one in the United States was interested in natural. Frankly, that was incredibly difficult.

Other companies that tried to introduce pet healthy products are long gone. We persisted and today we are the brand leader in what is still considered a niche category. We are known as a top-shelf line, and it’s not about the prices – it’s about the quality of our formulations.

One of the things that sets us apart is that we have products in two channels of business. The natural product category – i.e. health food stores such as Whole Foods (with Ark – not a human line) and the pet channel.

Our products are formulated by Dr. Nancy Scanlan DVM, the executive director of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association and Dr. C. Leigh Broadhurts Ph.D affiliated with the USDA.

Q: How did you start Ark Naturals?

Weiss: We started Ark with all our own money. I had become involved in the natural product industry, and realized that if natural, holistic, herbal, etc… can help with humans wouldn’t they help animals as well. I thought it was a great idea, however, it took years of hard work to convince retailers and consumers that my idea made sense.

Being ahead of the curve is always “dicey”. Seriously when we got an order for $50.00 from a store – we thought we hit the lotto.

We solicited both the natural channels i.e. Whole Foods as well as the pet channel. The pet channel was totally uninterested in what we offered. The natural channel was slightly interested. It took about 8 years for the pet category to give us a nod.

 

Q: You were one of the pioneers of the holistic wellness and remedy for pets. How have you seen it change?

Weiss: Years ago, when we exhibited at a trade show, we would have to stand in the aisle hoping we could stop a retailer who was walking the aisles to give us a minute of their time. I can’t tell you how many retailers told us, “no one wants natural.”

One of the problems with my category is that it really requires education.

When we started the vast majority of retailers didn’t think anyone would purchase these type of products. Additionally, pet retailers were frightened about the ingredients, how to pronounce them, what they offered.

Fast forward to today, and things have changed: How much a human spends per year on the healthy, well-being and happiness of their pet, the number of pet friendly hotels and it would be impossible to find a retailers, even one with a tony amount of space who does not carry natural products.

I feel that I played a large role in helping retailers understand the potential not only for the health of these for legged guys, but that they had a great opportunity to grow their business.

I take my role as one of the pioneers in the category very seriously. At the end of the day, I always remind my staff, my retailers, etc… that we are dealing with living breathing creatures, and that we need to be super careful about what we recommend and how we educate, because messages delivered, are sometimes mistranslated by the retailers, consumer, etc…

 

Q: What’s your advice to other women business owners in the pet industry?

Weiss: Here’s my generic advice to young entrepreneurs, success rarely, rarely, rarely, ever happens overnight. Think of your business as running a marathon versus a 100 yard dash. Each of those races requires very different strategy.

Be prepared for failure. Be prepared to lose money initially. Be prepared for ‘no’.

For women, you need to be prepared financially, emotionally and you need to be smarter than everyone including your competitors and every man on the street, because even though we say we believe in equal opportunity, in reality we aren’t there yet.

At the same time, be nice, be honest, look professional, know your business, make friends.

If you’re socializing – keep it very professional, because a guy can make a fool of himself but a woman can’t. If you have a little success don’t let it go to your head.



Images and Story courtesy of Pet Age Magazine.



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Friday, August 2, 2013

“The natural products movement has become one of the most important trends within the pet industry—particularly for small, independent retailers looking to set themselves apart from larger competitors.” – Pet Business Magazine

Ark Naturals has been a leader in the Natural Pet Products Industry for over 16 years. In the article below, Susan Weiss comments on how small, independent retailers can stay ahead of the larger competitors and be unique.

 

See full article below.


http://www.petbusiness.com/articles/2013-07-09/The-Greening-of-the-Pet-Industry

The Greening of the Pet Industry
by Mark Kalaygian
July 9, 2013
The natural products movement has become one of the most important trends within the pet industry—particularly for small, independent retailers looking to set themselves apart from larger competitors.



Not since the invention of the super-premium pet food category has there been a bigger development in the pet specialty channel than the trend toward natural products.  Over the past decade, pet owners’ increasing appetite for everything natural, organic and eco-friendly has been one of the main drivers of growth in the pet products market, and nowhere is this more evident than among small, independent pet stores. 

In a recent survey of pet retailers, nearly 50 percent said they identify their business as a “natural” pet store—a trend that comes as no surprise to industry experts like Leonard Powell, president and founder of Hi-Tek Rations. “It is the independent pet store retailer who is best equipped to offer the educated sale needed to point consumers in the right direction as far as wholesome, well-balanced diets,” says Powell, whose company manufactures several super-premium pet food brands, including Perfectly Natural Dog and Hi-Tek Naturals for dogs and cats.

Brian Collier, creative marketing and public relations coordinator for natural grooming products manufacturer Tropiclean, agrees that it is the unique ability of small-format pet stores to provide a high level of customer service that has made natural products a perfect fit. “Oftentimes the reason that consumers are going out of their way to visit an independent store is the value they receive in knowledge, customer service, care and expertise,” he says. “The natural category has truly ‘grown up’ in pet specialty and independent retail environments.”

However, while the natural category may have cut its teeth on the shelves of independent pet stores, other retailers have certainly noticed the explosive growth coming from this segment of the pet care market and are lining up for a share. This presents quite a challenge for small retailers, which practically had the natural pet products market to themselves during the category’s formative years. 

“Independent pet retailers have a battle ahead of them—and they better put on their armor and get ready for the battle,” says Susan Weiss, president of Ark Natural Pet Products, which makes a wide range of holistic wellness and remedy products for dogs and cats.

Lorna Paxton, chief marketing officer for Eco Well Dog—a manufacturer of natural grooming and dental care products, as well as treats—also sees a battle brewing for small, independent pet stores. “It is all too easy while shopping at Whole Foods for your own healthy groceries to pick up your dog’s food as well. And as manufacturers are looking for more channels to sell their merchandise, this is becoming a big challenge for pet stores,” she says. 

Despite this increased competition from other retail channels, industry experts say that small-format pet stores are still in an ideal position to defend their share of the natural products business. Doing so is simply a matter of playing to the strengths that helped independents build up the category in the first place—a high level of customer service and the flexibility to adapt to an evolving market.

“The little guys can either lay down and die, or they can get smarter [by educating themselves on the category], think outside the box in how they display products, and market to customers before they walk in the store,” says Weiss. “And don’t go crazy when marking up products; you can only do that when you’re the only guy in town with a product.”

In fact, being the only retailer in the neighborhood offering a particular product can be a great way to lock down a loyal customer following, says Jean Broders, brand manager for World’s Best Cat Litter. “[Independent pet stores] need to continue to work with manufacturers that are providing exclusive products to the pet stores only,” she says, noting that World’s Best Cat Litter recently launched a formula series that is exclusive to the pet channel: World’s Best Cat Litter Advance Natural. “It shows our support and loyalty to the pet stores.”

At the end of the day, the key to success for independent retailers in the natural category is not only identifying themselves as natural or holistic pet stores, but also backing that assertion up with a well-designed marketing and merchandising strategy. To this end, experts say that retailers must stock their shelves with a wide variety of items in the natural category, focusing on products that effectively do the job for which they are intended, and strive to convey a natural sensibility through all facets of their operations.

“I think offering a range of products which meet a variety of consumer and pet needs while providing pet solutions naturally are key elements,” says Mark Hughes, national sales and marketing manager of Pet Care Systems, makers of Swheat Scoop natural cat litter. “I also think the store should reflect the goal of a natural pet store, that it looks, smells and feels like a great choice for the consumer of natural pet products.”

“The retailer knows that they need the natural foods, but they also need to move into other natural products like shampoos, stain and odor removers, etc.,” says Vin Hourihan, vice president of sales for Natural Chemistry, which makes of a wide array of natural pet products in categories such as pet cleanup, grooming and pest control. “Beyond the product mix they need to communicate to the consumer that they have these natural products.  Communication by social media, store consumer databases, advertising and in-store education via signing and a knowledgeable sales staff [is critical].”

The importance of providing shoppers with reliable information about natural product options, as well as the ins and outs of proper pet care, cannot be overstated, says Marco Giannini, CEO and founder of natural pet food and treat manufacturer DOGSWELL.  “Retailers need to make sure their staff is knowledgeable, not just on the products they carry, but also on pet health in general,” he explains. “That way, they can address the different dietary concerns from customers and recommend the appropriate products as needed.”

With this in mind, industry experts universally agree that independent pet store owners and their employees must make a commitment to ongoing education. Luckily, there are many resources available for gaining and maintaining such an education, not the least of which is working closely with reliable vendor partners. “Retailers should take advantage of the in-store training and webinars offered by manufacturers,” suggests Chris Bessent, DVM, president of treat and supplement manufacturer Herbsmith, Inc. “But they have to look for training that is truly educational, not just an infomercial for a particular line of products.”

According to Collier, looking beyond vendor-provided information, retailers should be at no loss for ways in which they can stay ahead of the curve when it comes to natural product trends. “We live in an information-rich environment,” he says. “We also live in a culture that is more connected and linked than ever before. This means we have access to tremendous amounts of information right at our fingertips—literally. Use this hyper connectivity to your advantage by utilizing tools in social media, search and white papers to stay informed of the latest and greatest.”

However, while the Internet can be an invaluable resource in keeping up with the latest information about natural products, Powell advises retailers to be careful in evaluating what they read online. “While trends are worth watching, we would caution jumping on them without sufficient information,” he says. “Since the dawn of the Internet, there has been a panic du jour in the pet food industry that is at once alarmist and often damaging.  Scientific studies that have been published in established and recognized scientific journals provide more insight into what is good for the long-term health of pets than much of the information that appears online or in blogs.”

Bessent agrees that this type of sound information on pet health is critical to success in the natural products market—particularly when one considers how educated pet owners have become in their own right. But while a customer base that is becoming increasingly knowledgeable about this category does raise the stakes for retailers, Bessent says it also presents a great opportunity. “The more a retailer understands the basic science [behind natural products], the easier they will be able to discern which products are good,” she says. “And customers will respond to that. It’s something that the big guys will not be able to replicate very easily.”

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