Ren’s Pets Depot
Ren’s Pets was established in 1975 in Oakville, Ont. and during the 38 years since its doors first opened, Ren’s Pets has grown to become Canada’s largest independent retailer of pet products and supplies.
Ren’s PETS DEPOT started as a farm & feed store, launched by Ren and Sharon Job. With the changing business environment, the company slowly transitioned into a destination pet store. Colin Job, youngest son of Ren and Sharon, took over the business in 1998, and continues to drive Ren’s Pets’ business model to a whole new level. Today, with its head office in Guelph, Ont. and with four retail stores in southern Ontario and 110 employees, the company continues to offer superior service to pet lovers in Oakville, Guelph, Kitchener, and Waterdown.
Ren’s Pets Depot strives to provide pet lovers with the best value on the market. Ren’s Pets Depot carries more than 15,000 products from hundreds of manufacturers sourced from around the world. The company’s purchasing team scours the world to deliver clients with unbeatable prices on the products loved by owners and their pets. The company also supplies Canadian groomers, breeders, kennels and other pet-based businesses with the products they require to deliver a quality service.
The Canadian Business Journal spoke with Colin Job, President and Owner, Joe Lynn, Vice President and CFO, and Scott Arsenault, Vice President of Sales and Operations, discussing the company’s business model, and the upside of shopping for pet supplies with Ren’s Pets Depot.
“My father [Ren Job] started the business back in 1975, following in his father’s footsteps. At the time, the company was selling feed to farms (cattle, poultry, etc.), but we were also the Purina distributor for Ontario, selling to mom & pop pet shops. We were a wholesaler with a focus on purchasing, so we never had a retail store other than a farm supply shop for day-to-day farming equipment. We were more of a feed store rather than a pet store,” says Job.
Located right outside the GTA, in the 1990s the company started to see increased urbanization of the area, and due to the rising real estate costs, farming started to retreat northwards, and the company started to lose its Farming clientele. At the same time, urban pet lovers started to come into the picture, which prompted the company to adapt to the new geography and changing times. “At this point we had to take a new direction. We realized that we were already getting the best price for the pet food, and we decided to open a pet store.”
It proved to be the right move for the company, as Ren’s Pets has doubled its business over the past four years alone, and the company aims to double again over the next three years, with a plan to open at least two new stores in 2013, focusing on southwestern Ontario.
“Our business has grown substantially over the years and it continues to grow. Four years ago, our Oakville location was bursting at the seams, as we had decidedly outgrown that location. That’s why we’ve built a 26,000 square warehouse and a retail location in southern Guelph, which serves as our main distribution centre,” says Jobs.
The company’s state-of-the-art distribution centre allows Ren’s Pets to offer a multi-channel experience to their multi-market customers. Out of its main Distribution Centre, Ren’s Pets fulfills online and mail orders not just to retail customers but to professional groomers and breeders as well. It also leverages this existing infrastructure to provide best-in-class third party order fulfilment for a wide variety of ecommerce clients. This competitive advantage to serve a larger roster of clients provides Ren’s Pets with the ability to source high-end products affordably, and offer them to the Canadian pet market.
According to Job, the pet industry has been recession-proof, with many businesses seeing an opportunity in this area: grocery stores, big box stores, and online businesses entering into the industry and increasing the competition. The distinct competitive advantages of Ren’s Pets lies with the company’s size and flexibility. While the company is large enough to be capable of purchasing products at wholesale rates, it is also small enough and therefore flexible enough to act faster in response to market opportunities.
“Everybody seems to be in this category today, and the margins are getting tighter. This is a mature market and we have to work hard every day to keep our market share and to keep growing. This all comes down to our team and the infrastructure that we have behind us, so we can buy better and react quicker than the large retailers. We can turn around on a dime and make decisions more quickly in regards to new opportunities. Our competitors don’t have this option because they are either a franchise business, or they don’t have a distribution centre to be able to redistribute to their locations,” says Job.
The company sells products to about 90 per cent of professional groomers and breeders across Canada. Supplying this huge customer base allows Ren’s Pets to purchase high-end professional products, and also offer these products at competitive prices to pet owners in its retail stores.
“Also, we don’t compete with any of the professionals out there. We look at our clients—humane societies, groomers, dog trainers, and breeders – as our partners, so we don’t sell dogs, we don’t groom dogs, and we don’t train dogs. We give a non-competition policy to our customers, and in return we receive the referral business from these professionals,” says Job.
The company also remains attuned to the latest marketing channels, and has relaunched its web store to better serve its customers across Canada. According to Job, the largest challenges here are making the online ordering viable for the Canadian customer. “The shipping rates in Canada are not aligned with the cost of shipping from the U.S., and in order to compete with some of the U.S. pricing, we really have to work on very tight margins, and be as efficient as possible in our warehousing and logistics, constantly negotiating better shipping rates, and let the new technologies help us to do these things effectively,” says Job.
To this, Arsenault added, “Our biggest challenges on the retail side would be the competition from the grocery chains, as they are taking on most of the retail business, and we have to work hard every day to create value for our customers, and deliver the best prices and the best selection. We are trying to give them a really good selection so they are wowed when they come to our stores. ‘Best service’ is not something we advertise, but it’s something we prove to our customers every time they visit.”
In regards to service, the company strives to employ people who are devoted to customers’ pets, providing the very best expertise and advice on all products.
As a part of the exceptional customer experience, Ren’s Pets has a 100 per cent pet-friendly policy, encouraging customers to bring their dogs shopping with them, where these furry companions are always pampered with a tasty treat. Another integral part of the Ren’s Pets tradition is the old school carry-out service, where an employee helps the customer carry their purchase straight to the car.
“While we offer a huge product selection, we are really looking at the customer experience. We also offer customers our rewards and frequent buyer program that are not offered by our competitors. We compete by offering great selection compared to the big box stores, but also competitive pricing and knowledgeable staff. These are all aspects of our exceptional customer experience,” says Lynn.