PJ’s Pets was founded by Peter Merrill in 1969 with a vision of creating a different kind of pet store — a pet store that puts the health and happiness of pets first, and provides Canadians with quality products in a clean, bright and welcoming environment.This Canadian-owned and operated company has stores across Canada, under four pet store brands — PJ’s Pets, Pets Unlimited, Oliver’s Pets & Co., and petculture. With 35 stores in total, the company employs over 400 knowledgeable staff, uniting people with animals they will love and cherish.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke to Margaret Kordas, President, and Stacey Halliday, Director of Marketing. “Our founder pioneered the ‘big box pet store’ concept in reaction to changing views of pet ownership, and the fact that people were taking relationships with their pets to a new level. His vision for the company was two-fold — to provide only quality pet products to Canadian pet owners, and to help happy, healthy pets find new homes through our stores,” says Halliday. Although the company is moving away from the “big box” format to a smaller store concept, the vision has remained the same.
The current value of the pet products industry in Canada reaches about $9 billion, and Kordas disclosed that the company has earned a solid place in this market. PJ’s Pets prides itself in being the all-in-one shop for all pet lovers across Canada, while the industry saw retailers moving away from having live animals in their stores. “Having live animals in a store is very labour intensive, but this is a very comprehensive portion of the business. Our goal is to send these pets to their new homes while providing the owners with all the knowledge necessary to keep pets happy and healthy throughout their lives. This is what we focus on and what separates us from the competition. We are the ones who put pets in people’s homes.”
Since its inception, PJ’s Pets made it company business to put the health and happiness of all pets first. The company’s pet care specialists give customers the peace of mind by providing knowledge about how to provide comfortable and safe homes for pets. PJ’s Pets adheres to the five key areas that deliver on this promise: carefully selecting suppliers, visiting and checking supplier facilities; providing pets in the store with state-of-the-art housing units, daily social interaction, high quality food and veterinarian exam; getting to know customers and matching them with a pet that suits their lifestyle; educating customers about the needs of each pet; supporting the company promise with industry-leading health warranties.
Company stores also carry each and every pet product a pet lover could wish for. From carrying over 40 brands of high quality pet food to starter kits for every type of pet, and everything in between. If the pet market offers it, PJ’s Pets most likely carries it.
Stewards of Change
With large numbers of dogs and puppies available for adoption, PJ’s Pets stopped selling puppies in 2011, and launched their “Every Pet Deserves a Home” adoption program. The company works with rescue groups and shelters, and uses the company stores as information conduits to find new owners for the abandoned pets.
“There is a huge push from the public to adopt pets, and we wanted to be a part of the solution and participate in this public initiative, so we took a firm stand and made a decision — we were the first national retailer in North America that stopped selling puppies in favour of rescue groups and shelters,” says Kordas.
The company utilizes the kennels left in the stores to showcase pets that come from shelters, and promoting fundraising for their animal protection initiatives.
“We have seen a terrific public gratitude from the ranks of the pet owners, through letting them know that we are here for them,” adds Halliday.
Undercover Boss Canada
Kordas has been with the company since early 2012, and during the leadership transition, she agreed to join the popular reality show Undercover Boss Canada.
To this Kordas said, “It’s always great to have hands-on experience. This was a great way for me as the new president to get close to the industry, and this experience provided me with a great exposure to the inner workings of the company and the sector, and the different elements necessary to make our stores tick.”
Kordas makes a point about the importance of the knowledge that PJ’s Pets and its employees offer and pass on to the customers. “The amount of expertise our employees offer has been quite an eye-opener for me. A PJ Pets’ shopper is not like the big box store shopper who picks up whatever pet food or litter might be on sale. We carry reasonably priced high quality products that focus on the overall wellbeing of pets. Every pet has different needs and our staff provide customers advice in all the areas. I was quite overwhelmed by the knowledge of our employees.”
“We are focusing exclusively on pets — pets is all we do. This, and the knowledge that comes with it, differentiates us from pet retailers and all other retailers selling pet supplies, and our customers appreciate it,” added Halliday.
PJ’s Pets believes that the bond between humans and animals is a remarkable gift, and the company nurtures this gift every day by putting the health of pets and happiness of customers first.