How Canadian Retailer Ren’s Pets Is Rising Its Brick-and-Mortar Retailer Depend and Participating Buyers On-line |

Letitia Denham


In 1975, when Ren and Sharon Job opened Ren’s Feed and Provide in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, the institution supplied livestock feed and farm provides to the native farming group, in addition to served because the Purina distributor for Ontario.

At the moment, Oakville was rural and considerably distant; nevertheless, city sprawl was advancing.

“It was positively in the midst of nowhere then, and now we wish to say it’s in the midst of someplace,” says Scott Arsenault, CEO of the now 45-store strong-and-growing enterprise.

“We nonetheless have that retailer 48 years later; it’s our flagship,” Arsenault provides.

The writing was on the wall by the early ’80s, when Ren’s had begun incorporating premium, area of interest manufacturers of canine and cat meals into the product combine. By the Nineteen Nineties, Oakville farms have been transferring north, and the enterprise’s buyer base was additional evolving. Ren’s adopted that demand, turning into extra targeted on pet specialty choices.

In 1998, son Colin Job took the reins and continued to level the institution alongside this new path, ultimately opening a Ren’s Pets retailer, together with a distribution middle, which included catalog and mail order, in 2008.

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“As he transitioned into management throughout the firm, Colin shortly noticed that canine and cat meals was the place he wished to position his focus,” Arsenault says. “He opened our 25,000-square-foot distribution middle in Guelf and constructed a head workplace.”

That second location was shortly adopted by a 3rd.

“It was form of a altering of the guard from farm and feed to extra canine and cat specialty targeted,” Arsenault says.

The Guelf distribution middle offered the power to develop e-commerce skills, significantly the grooming merchandise that had joined the choices.

“We’re the No. 1 provider of grooming merchandise in Canada,” he says. “We ship tables and tubs, cages and clippers, and are closely entrenched within the grooming group.”

With Job and Arsenault on the helm, the corporate moved forward shortly.

“Anybody who retailers at Ren’s loves Ren’s, and we felt that we wanted extra Ren’s,” Arsenault says. “Colin appreciated the development and the idea of rising the corporate and the construction. From a retail standpoint, it was actually to the purpose the place when a retailer opened, I received the keys, and I ran with it.”

Tragically, Job handed away in 2019, however his contributions throughout the pet group stay a testomony to his imaginative and prescient.

“We received to round 10 shops and ended up promoting to a personal fairness group and accelerated to 36 shops. We have been ecstatic when the Legault Group, a privately run household firm out of Quebec, purchased us in July 2021,” Arsenault says.

By the top of 2023, the overall variety of shops is anticipated to achieve 57.

“We’re additionally within the Maritime provinces, presently Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and we’re opening in two new provinces, Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island,” he provides.

As well as, Ren’s Pets is dipping a toe into the Toronto market by opening its city idea shops.

“With a inhabitants of about six million individuals, Toronto is among the high 10 cities in North America. We opened retailer No. 2 there in February,” Arsenault says.

Ren’s has a profitable, high-volume method in place for suburban areas, however Toronto’s city setting presents distinctive logistical challenges.

“We’re a bit bit underdeveloped when it comes to city and have at all times had a type of ‘exterior in’ strategy as a result of we all know our field works and has been very profitable,” he says. “There are challenges in an city space—smaller footprints are costlier, with maybe multi-unit housing above, visitors and parking, or maybe transport difficulties.

“It’s like a Morse code that we try to crack, and one of many issues we do is check and study,” he provides.

The primary idea retailer, launched within the Liberty Village group of Toronto, incorporates a extra compact 4,500 sq. ft of retail procuring, versus the 7,500-plus-square-foot measurement of the suburban shops.

“So, we needed to discover ways to pare down a number of the assortment to make it work,” Arsenault says. “One of many issues that’s been massively profitable within the city group is uncooked. It’s virtually been 50/50 when it comes to weight loss plan and meals gross sales.”

Location No. 2, in The Junction district, has the very best common revenue in households with pets licensed in Toronto, in response to Arsenault. Using pet licensing as a demographic helps pinpoint the place aware, caring pet house owners are concentrated.

“We form of align with that, and it has labored for us prior to now,” he says.

A 3rd idea retailer, situated in The Seashores enclave of Toronto, is slated to open in late 2023.

“We’re actually excited to be opening in 6,000 sq. ft on this lovely group and can proceed to check and discover ways to function in these markets,” he says.

Arsenault famous that when a brand new brick-and-mortar web site opens its doorways, digital consciousness—and subsequently, on-line gross sales—go up.

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Larissa Wasyliw, vice chairman of e-commerce and advertising and marketing, with Amy Dugas, director of selling.

“We’re happy with all of our brick-and-mortar expansions,” says Larissa Wasyliw, vice chairman of e-commerce and advertising and marketing. “Our shops are a part of our omnichannel technique, and clients just like the comfort and ease of with the ability to store on-line as properly.”

Quickly, a newly devoted warehouse will function the primary facility for retailer provides, whereas the unique 25,000-square-foot web site will function as a web based gross sales middle.

“We’re extra than simply brick-and-mortar; it’s omnichannel for shopper procuring,” Arsenault provides.

For consumers, Ren’s Pets’ distinctive vivid blue emblem is difficult to overlook, together with window decals of the identical hue. The 2 emblem characters, Tucker the canine and Fats Cat, are simply identifiable. Tiered shelving affords excessive visibility, permitting clients to effortlessly scan product picks in an inviting ambiance.

“Our shops are clear, the flooring are polished, we don’t have stay animals or any aquatic, so the shops odor nice,” Arsenault says. “With the tiered idea, in contrast to a grocer, clients can see that meals is on the again, or the place the frozen meals are situated. Toys and treats are in a number of the gondolas.”

As the biggest grooming product provider in Canada, Ren’s Pets affords a variety of decisions obtainable on-line, together with Ren’s Pets’ personal model, Q, which affords its personal assortment for groomers. Nonetheless, choose merchandise are additionally bought throughout the brick-and-mortar areas.

“We do curate a few of our assortment, with the highest 20 % of SKUs stocked in shops—for instance, clippers, blades or brushes,” Arsenault says. “That manner, groomers or their clients are in a position to store in our shops as properly.”

Initially, catalogs and a name middle have been utilized for orders.

“That started 25 years in the past, after which we put all of it on-line,” he says. “We have been totally operational on-line lengthy earlier than the pandemic, so it’s not one thing that we rushed into.”

Ren’s Pets leaves companies to its skilled companions, assuaging competitors and strengthening the bond between these providing these facilities.

“We don’t compete with our companions, so companies will not be a part at Ren’s,” he provides.

This creates an surroundings the place groomers are comfy in sending their very own clients to buy in-stock grooming merchandise.

“These groomers actually advocate for us. No. 1, as a result of we now have the premium merchandise for his or her clients, and two, as a result of we aren’t going to take these clients,” he says.

A Pet’s Finest Life

Right this moment, Ren’s Pets spotlights premium canine and cat meals and provides, and stands agency in its mission to supply pets with their finest life.

“We consider, one hundred pc, in Ren’s Promise: ‘We’re right here to your pet’s finest life,’” Wasyliw says. “We consider within the premium high-quality meals and treats that we stock and promise to search out the most effective meals for every pet.”

When a buyer arrives at a Ren’s Pets to debate their pet’s dietary wants, educated workers members are on the prepared to help in figuring out the most effective meals on a person foundation.

“After we residence in on the correct weight loss plan, we will say, ‘We consider your pet will do properly on this meals and you’ll be again, so right here’s a small bag to attempt,’” Arsenault says.

With uncooked meals as its fastest-growing class, the corporate has made a dedication to walk-in freezers inside every retailer.

“Our shops are high-volume, and we wanted overstock for uncooked so made the funding in walk-in freezers,” he says. “It doubles our capability.”

With that pledge, 90 % of areas presently function walk-in freezers.

Along with uncooked meals, greater than 20 main manufacturers of kibble, canned and freeze-dried meals are introduced, together with Ren’s Pets’ unique personal label meals, Vetdiet, for canines and cats. Launched in 2022, Vetdiet options a variety of canned and kibble meals in addition to treats.

“That’s taken off rather well with our clients as a result of it’s Canadian made,” Wasyliw says.

Treats are the No. 2 class, and a broad choice of bones and pure treats occupies a number of aisles inside every retailer.

“Pure treats is a large rising class, very similar to uncooked,” Arsenault says. “We supply all the highest manufacturers of meals and accompany all of these manufacturers with their treats. So it’s an enormous part.”

Ren’s Pets’ personal Canadian-made Maple Valley Pantry treats and chews are additionally within the combine.

“That’s been a extremely good complement to our entire assortment,” Wasyliw says.

In an effort to alleviate the waste of expired meals, and in a nod to environmental points, Ren’s is presently collaborating with Flash Meals, a Toronto-based firm devoted to creating reasonably priced entry to meals.

“It’s a particularly modern initiative. We love the environmental side that meals that could be near expiration doesn’t develop into waste, and clients are getting a deal, which is fairly superior,” Wasyliw says. “We would be the first in non-grocery as a result of we’re within the pet vertical. It’s one other manner for our clients to buy with us.”

Collars, leashes and a broad assortment of pet provides are additionally within the product combine. This contains myriad seasonal choices, together with coats and sweaters for the winter months and out of doors exercise choices throughout hotter climate.

“We’re a little bit of a class killer with as much as 30 ft of attire together with a wall of coats and sweaters,” Arsenault says. “Now we have gadgets which can be cute, and we now have the useful manufacturers.”

Ren’s Pets’ personal line of Canada Paws toys joins an intensive toy class.

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A Carry-Out Tradition

As one of many core values embraced by the corporate, Ren’s Pets’ Carry Out Tradition is a central part to the shopper expertise.

“Irrespective of the scale of a bag of meals, it’s at all times carried out,” Arsenault says. “That’s not solely nice service, nevertheless it’s a solution to set up a very good reference to our clients.”

Along with the carry-out tradition, the remaining core values embrace accountability, candor, duty, respect and enthusiasm.

“We’re right here for a pet’s finest life,” he says. “The pet drives all the pieces as a result of pets do actually personal the proprietor.”

To additional implement this credo, the Ren’s College coaching program ensures that educated workers members are on the prepared to help pet house owners on this regard.

“Ren’s College is so thrilling and has been actually nice for the corporate, and all the workers actually jumped onboard and wished to study extra,” Wasyliw says. (See sidebar on web page 21.)

Ren’s Pets’ loyalty rewards program affords one other avenue to buyer engagement and familiarity.

“We invested in our personal digital rewards program with frequent purchaser factors about eight to 9 years in the past,” Arsenault says. “We arrange a visible part so a buyer can see on-line precisely what number of factors they’re accumulating.”

To additional refine the loyalty program, the enterprise turned to omnichannel buyer engagement platform Emarsys.

“Our buyer loyalty program was rising at such a quick tempo [that] we wished to be ready for the longer term, so we put a major funding behind Emarsys, which additionally runs all of our e mail,” Wasyliw says.

Members of the Ren’s loyalty membership obtain emails tailor-made to their procuring historical past. As an example, canine-owning clients obtain content material focused to canines, which could embrace a brand new product promotion or a coupon for often bought merchandise.

“The system tracks every buyer’s life-style,” Wasyliw says. “It lets us know the shopper and their pet on a extra one-on-one foundation.”

When the pandemic arrived, Ren’s Pets instituted residence supply, using DoorDash. The collaboration introduced in regards to the expediency of same-day supply, together with uncooked meals.

“Now we have [made a] promise to our clients that in the event that they order by 2 p.m., we’ll ship same-day, and that’s fairly key to our omnichannel technique,” Wasyliw says.

Additional, with the autoship program, clients are in a position to tailor supply frequency to particular person wants.

Inner applications, equivalent to Pet Authorized, additional promote buyer engagement. Chosen clients obtain merchandise to pattern with their pets and, in flip, present content material and evaluations.

“Our clients love this as a result of, initially, they’ve enjoyable making an attempt new issues with their pets, however they’re additionally giving, and receiving, opinions and suggestions from different clients who’ve tried the identical merchandise,” Wasyliw says.

Getting the Phrase Out

Ren’s Pets clients are stored apprised of goings on by way of a flier program, and because the pandemic, distribution has shifted to be primarily digital.

“Our clients like it,” Wasyliw says. “We run a flier program all year long with 5 main occasions.”

A favourite is “Ren’siversary,” an anniversary celebration.

“We’re already looking forward to our large fiftieth in two years,” Wasyliw says.

In addition to e mail engagement and distribution in shops, fliers are shared on social media, which is thought to be a formidable promotional device.

“We’re very sturdy on conventional Fb. Instagram is definitely our fastest-growing channel, and we now have actually gotten into TikTok, which our clients love, particularly the youthful ones,” Wasyliw says.

The Ren’s Pets Influencer program permits pet house owners and their influential pets to overview merchandise, with house owners posting their findings on their private pages. Themed bins are distributed on a month-to-month foundation for analysis.

“They’ve a ton of followers and put up content material on their very own channels,” Wasyliw says. “The cutest factor is the pet has the social media channel, not the proprietor.”

Adoption assist is a robust part to Ren’s Promise, and far of this backing is completed by way of particular person shops, the place retailer managers are coached in relationship constructing.

“Our shops are given a finances for native humane society and rescue assist, so inside each group we’re concerned on this effort,” Arsenault says.

Particular person shops sponsor native rescue and shelter occasions, and for adoptive pet house owners, an adoption equipment with a $25 present card is offered.

A metropolis licensing program affords house owners licensing their pets a $20 Ren’s Pets present card.

Nationally, Ren’s Pets’ Dogust occasion, held through the month of August, raises funds for Ontario Veterinary School Pet Belief and Atlantic Veterinary School.

“Any pet dad or mum has most likely been touched ultimately by these schools, whether or not their veterinarian went to high school there, their pet was despatched there for an emergency or operation, or for most cancers analysis,” Arsenault says.

In 2022, roughly $50,000 was raised companywide to profit this effort.

Assist additionally takes place on a world scale. For instance, pets and other people affected by the Ukraine tragedy.

“We donated to the Purple Cross of their humanitarian assist,” Wasyliw says. “We additionally wished to assist pets and have been in a position to elevate over $20,000 with our clients to donate to an animal meals financial institution that had direct ties to serving to pets in Ukraine.”

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Getting Educated at Ren’s

Information and experience are a lifestyle at Ren’s Pets, and workers members graduating from Ren’s College course of examine are known as “Ren’sified.”

“A few of us will say they’re all Ren’sified and able to go,” says Sandra McClure, coaching supervisor, and creator and overseer of the Ren’s College course content material offered to every affiliate coming onboard at Ren’s Pets. “I work with the distributors and our departments to get the supplies wanted for this intensive coaching.”

Because of this, graduates possess the power to debate Ren’s Pets’ merchandise and applications with clients.

The idea of Ren’s College was born when McClure acknowledged a necessity for a uniform coaching construction.

“With all the brand new shops, I noticed a disconnect in how we have been onboarding and coaching, orientating our managers, or getting model supplies in entrance of our workers to find out about our merchandise,” she says. “I knew we wanted to behave on this, to supply consistency, to be on the identical web page with the coaching.

“Now we have about 10,000 lively SKUs per retailer, so I began working with our distributors to acquire materials within the type of movies, PowerPoints, PDFs or no matter they’ve obtainable,” she provides. “We presently have 500-plus workers members taking programs, with 94 % participation and 98 % engagement.”

College students full 100 necessary programs, with about 400 further segments on the prepared.

“There’s a studying path, and the primary course is ‘Welcome to Ren’s,’ which discusses our tradition and our mission,” she says.

Course two affords an outline of firm insurance policies. A brand new rent usually completes the primary 11 programs earlier than taking to the gross sales ground.

“It might take two to 3 hours to undergo these programs, that are all digital,” McClure says. “A gross sales affiliate has about 25 hours to finish the onboarding.”

As soon as on the gross sales ground, new associates shadow a supervisor by way of a buddy system.

Month-to-month supervisor’s coaching conferences will begin in April of this 12 months. As retailer managers do their very own hiring and onboarding, the aim is to supply vital sources.

“That’s the subsequent stage up,” she says. “I’ve created commonplace working procedures, so if they’ve a query, they’ll go to these sources, and in the event that they nonetheless can’t discover the reply, they’ll attain out. With 500 retail workers, we need to set up construction.”

In a brand new rent, McClure says initially, candidates that finest characterize Ren’s tradition and the core values of the corporate are sought.

“Do they arrive from a pet business background? That helps with the lingo and the understanding,” she says. “In the event that they don’t, Ren’s College will convey them in control.”

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It is a Retail Life

What’s Ren’s finest identified for?

Larissa Wasyliw: Ren’s is finest identified for our premium, high-quality pet meals. We supply the most effective manufacturers and consider weight loss plan is essential to pets dwelling their finest life.

What’s the best problem for the unbiased pet retailer immediately?

Wasyliw: Buyer retention. That’s why we’re creating a brand new buyer and loyalty staff proper now, to drive buyer acquisition and retention utilizing our Ren’s Rewards loyalty program.  

What’s the best problem for the pet business general?

Wasyliw: Prices are going up throughout the board. We need to guarantee our pet mother and father get the most effective merchandise, at a very good value, which is difficult to handle typically with distributors elevating costs and inflation general within the financial system.

Are you watching any fascinating traits?

Wasyliw: We’re watching the constant uptake of pet mother and father switching to uncooked, frozen meals. We’re additionally seeing that clients need to know the place pet meals is made and love when it’s Canadian, like our Vetdiet or Acana. We’re seeing clients follow manufacturers they know their pets like versus making an attempt plenty of new flavors or manufacturers, on account of price.  

What do you see for the way forward for Ren’s Pets?

Wasyliw: We see sturdy progress as our future. We’ve actually discovered our area of interest as a premier omnichannel specialty pet retailer, and our loyal clients belief our model for his or her pet purchases whether or not it’s in-store, on-line or each. We simply want extra Ren’s, as we proceed to dominate the Canadian pet retail panorama!

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