Do you want to start a pet store online? If YES, here is a complete guide to starting a pet store business with NO money and no experience. By mere looking at our neighborhood, we will understand that pets are an integral part of people’s lives. These living beauties bring us joy, they love us unconditionally, they even lower our blood pressure and give us a sense of well-being. Anyone who has ever had a pet can tell you wholeheartedly that they fill the aching void left when children leave the nest or a spouse dies.
For childless couples, a pet is “someone” on whom to shower affection and gifts. A lot of individuals consider their pets their “kids,” and even relate to them better than they do to people around them. Without much explanations and words, we know that this insatiable love of pets is most times the reason why people decide to start pet related businesses.
Table of Content
- What is a Pet Store?
- 2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- 3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
- 4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
- 5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
- 9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
- 10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
- 11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
- 12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
- 13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
- 14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
- 15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
- 16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
- 17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
- 18. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
- 19. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
What is a Pet Store?
A pet store is simply a retail business which sells different kinds of animals to the public. Different animal supplies and pet accessories are also sold in pet stores. The products sold include: food, treats, toys, collars, leashes, cat litter, cages and aquariums.
Also some pet stores provide engraving services for pet tags which have the owner’s contact information in case the pet gets lost. There are pet stores that also offer both hygienic care (such as pet cleaning) and aesthetic services (such as cat and dog grooming).
Note that the term grooming refers to the process by which a dog or cat’s physical appearance is enhanced and kept according to breed standards. You need to gather a handful of experience before venturing into this business, which is why it is a great idea to work or volunteer at a pet store.
Volunteering at a pet shop is a good, no-cost, no-risk way to learn the business, and to determine if you are cut out for this undertaking. You also need to learn as much as you can about different pets, their specific characteristics and needs.
19 Steps to Starting a Pet Store Business Online
1. Understand the Industry
Even a layman looking out the balcony of his house can state just with the number of pets he has seen, the extent and statistics of this industry. Indeed, the Pet Stores industry has purred along over the past five years as cats, dogs, fish and birds have remained popular home companions. Individuals, who treat their four-legged friends as family members have grown increasingly common and facilitated demand for pet stores.
Experts believe that accelerated by economic recovery, the pet stores industry has expanded strongly, even with increased competition from pet stores, mass merchandisers and online retailers that offer consumers greater convenience and competitive prices.
Analysis on this industry has shown that over the five years to 2022, the Pet Stores industry is expected to keep growing in order to maintain strong growth. Also as the economy continues its upward trajectory and consumers have more discretionary income, revenue from premium products and services is expected to increase.
Pet food is a necessity for all pets, which is why even the layman noted at the beginning of this overview, will not be surprised that pet foods make up the largest product segment of the industry. We believe that this segment covers a wide range of products such as dry and wet food for dogs and cats, bird feed, crickets and worms for reptiles, and other treats and supplements for a number of different household pets. Reports have also noted that within the past five years, retailers increasingly provided all-natural and organic food products.
These premium pet foods tend to be higher priced with larger mark-ups, a factor benefitting industry revenue. Today, a variety of premium pet foods are available to pets. By 2019, the industry is expected to hit $91.72 billion in sales. To maximize potential opportunities, companies in the pet industry need to understand the current trends that have affected the market as well as the emerging trends that are expected to drive the market in the coming year.
2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies
- Demographics and Psychographics
Trying to understand the demographics and Psychographics of this business is like trying to understand why humans love. Expert reports in this industry have proven that more than 6 out of 10 U.S. households, or 64.2 million people, own at least one pet.
Indeed not all these households have designer pet strollers on the driveway or marabou-trimmed beds in the master bedroom, but enough people were buying products to pamper their pooches and kitties to make the pet-supplies industry a $5.86 billion market as far back as 2003.
Experts have been predicting that the pet supplies will be a $13.02 billion industry, with an average annual growth rate of 3.8 percent. Even though there are no statistics available specifically on the upscale pet-products industry, we expertly believe that the people who are selling these products are taking a big bite out of that prosperous market.
Upscale pet products run the gamut from the sublime to the sometimes ridiculous. There are ferret hammocks, faux mink dog blankets and cashmere sweaters, Halloween costumes and Santa suits, and plush beds shaped like Faberge eggs (the latter is the charming creation of one of the entrepreneurs interviewed for the Pet Businesses start-up guide).
We believe that other upscale pet products now in demand include jewellery (both barrettes and necklaces), wedding dresses and tuxedos, fashion eyewear, elaborate cat condos, stairs and ramps for elderly pets, pet toys and massagers, apparel (sweaters, dresses and T-shirts), collars and leashes.
3. Decide Which Niche to Concentrate On
Note that when starting this business, you will need to start one of five different types of pet-products and pet-service businesses that are in demand today. We have concrete reasons to believe that any of these businesses can be started as home based enterprises with a fairly low financial investment.
You can even start two as strictly internet businesses to really keep costs low. But also note that all of them can be launched and run successfully without any assistance from employees-at least until the time comes when you want to grow and expand the business beyond what you can personally handle. These unique niches include;
- pet sitting/dog walking
- dog training
- pet grooming
- pet-food sales
- upscale pet products
But this industry is not just centered on the above mentioned 5 niches, other niches in the industry may include;
- Pet day care
- Poop Cleaning Services
- Exotic Fish and Aquarium
- Pet photography
The Level of Competition in the Industry
The global pet and pet supply store market is concentrated in the Americas, Europe, and the Asia/Pacific region; pets are less common in South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Major pet populations exist in Brazil, China, Russia, Indonesia, and Japan.
However, the largest pet market by a wide margin is the US. Just the US pet and pet supply store industry includes about 9,000 establishments (single-location companies and units of multi-location companies) with combined annual revenue of about $16 billion.
Proper research about this industry yielded the fact that pet ownership is the key factor that drives demand, and spending generally resists economic cycles. The success of individual companies depends on the ability to generate store traffic and effective merchandising.
Bigger businesses in the industry offer low prices and wide selections of both products and services. But we believe that smaller companies can compete effectively by serving a local market, selling unique products, offering specialized services, or providing pet expertise. The US industry is concentrated: the 50 largest companies account for about 75% of the industry revenue.
4. Know Your Major Competitors in the Industry
- PETCO Animal Supplies Stores
- Global Pet Foods
- Pet Valu
- Pets at Home
- PETLAND DISCOUNTS
- Wolf gang
- Pet Express
- Pet food
In this our modern age, the major concern with pet stores and the reason why puppies and kittens may not be sold in certain stores anymore is largely due to puppy mills. Puppy mills are commercial dog breeding businesses that breed dogs primarily for profit, often with little regard for animal welfare.
Reports have stated that more than 2.5 million puppies are born in puppy mills each year in the united states. Kitten mills are not as widely known as puppy mills, but they still do exist. We are meant to believe that animals in these mills are kept in tiny, unsanitary cages, receive little to no nourishment, and often receive no veterinary care. Some cities in Canada such as Toronto have altogether banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores in order to put an end to this animal abuse.
Also, another main area of concern regarding pet stores is the laws that guide pet stores. Like in the US, there are no federal laws in place that protect animals in retail pet stores. Indeed there are state laws to protect animals, however they all vary and some are not sufficient enough. In twenty states plus D.C., a license is needed before you are able to manage a pet store.
It is very important to state that the welfare of animals in pet shops also relies heavily on the veterinary care available to them. Like in the United States, there are only 16 states that enforce veterinary care laws in pet stores. While In Ontario, Canada the Provincial Animal Welfare Act states that the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has the authorization to examine places where animals are kept for sale, including pet shops. No matter how bad it seems or we want to look at it, we will sure note the need for these animals to be well catered for or this industry sooner or later will not be as glamorous as it is now.
5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch
It is very essential to note that pet parents are becoming more sophisticated and discriminating about the products they purchase and services they seek. Experts believe they are increasingly likely to frequent pet stores where the staff has a lot more knowledge about pets than employees at the big outlets, the majority of whom are merely sales and store clerks with little or no training in animal care.
This is why starting from the scratch can be more advisable than buying a franchise. Starting this business from the scratch will offer you the following advantages listed below;
- You have the freedom to choose your own products and supplies
- You have the ability to offer more personalized service
- You are in a position to establish greater rapport with members of your community
- You can forge your own unique niche, apart from the big franchises
6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face
Do not be deceived by what you see around you, managing or starting this business is a hard and stressful arrangement. Indeed starting a pet store can provide an opportunity to work with animals and be your own boss. Just the thought of it can make it seem like a fun pastime, but note that owning and operating a pet shop requires plenty of effort and careful planning.
Have it in mind that the success of your pet store depends on creating a positive atmosphere and meeting your customers’ needs. Selling pets and pet supplies requires complying with regulations, upholding certain standards and performing necessary procedures. Some of the challenges may include;
- Viable market
- Experience and knowledge
- Land space
- Time management
- Sustainable supply chain
- Pricing model
- Cash flow management
- Hiring trustworthy and competent staff
- Good communication skills and awesome customer service
- Animal welfare
- writing a business plan
- Animal attacking diseases
7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)
There are a lot of factors you should consider when choosing the best legal structure for your pet store. You should know that the type of legal structure you decide on can have an edge on many aspects of your business, including taxes, liability, and your exit strategy. You have five basic choices to choose from: a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a Limited Liability Company or a corporation–either an S corporation or a C Corporation.
When starting your pet store in the United States, an LLC structure is strongly advised because LLCs are simpler and more flexible. This legal structure does not need a committee of directors, meeting of shareholders, and other managerial formalities to make a decision for the business.
Forming the LLC also gives you the advantage of enticing your employees with a share of the profits, even if those employees didn’t aid in the startup of the business. This business structure also offers tax-treatment flexibility. Your profits can be taxed as a corporate entity (a C Corporation) or as a “straight” entity (an S corporation), which means you can avoid paying tax on both corporate profits and the owners’ personal income. Most entrepreneurs choose the “straight or rather the pass-through option”.
8. Choose a Catchy Business Name
Starting a pet store business can be very interesting, but choosing a good name for your business will go a long way in helping to grow your business. Here are some few names you can choose from:
- Apex Pet store
- Animal Crackers
- Lovers Pet Shop
- Pet mart
- Pet Ketchup
- Family pet
- Mini zoo
- Happy kings
- Greenland Pet Shop
- Healthy Pet
- Nocturnal homes
- Animal Pet store
- Milo’s Pet Shop
- Olympic Pet Shop
- Bone zone
- Pet Project
- Puppy World
9. Discuss with an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You
Have it at the back of your mind that pet stores are far more than just retail establishments where people can buy supplies to care for their pets. A pet store also houses many animals, and this leads to their having more risks and exposures than most stores face.
We all know that these animals can be unpredictable, which heightens the risk of injuries or liability claims. Also disruptions in power or disasters such as a fire can threaten the health and life of the animals in your care, which is why it is very important that you protect your business with a suitable pet store insurance policy. Your pet store business is open to a lot of risk and they insurance you need may include:
- General Liability Insurance
- spoilage insurance
- Property Insurance Coverage
- Commercial Auto Insurance
- Crime and fraud insurance
- Flood insurance
- Business income insurance
- Inland Marine Insurance
- Business interruption insurance
- Life insurance
- Employment Practices Liability Insurance
- Employee Dishonesty insurance
10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents
Our love for these unique creatures has gingered the growth of pet stores, this we believe have in turn fueled growth in the business and has also resulted in the increase in the number of trademarks being filed by pet stores to protect their new brands, and new pet stores.
With the intense competition in the Pet store industry, and with branding becoming more sophisticated, we strongly advice that you protect your intellectual properties and make sure that your brand is well represented. You can start by understanding what needs to be protected in your business, and filing an application with the USPTO.
11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification
Have it in mind that when you plan to start your own pet store business or think of majoring in marketing or information systems, you should also consider earning some crucial certifications. These certifications include;
- Dog groomer certification
- PSI’s Certification
- Professional Pet Sitter Certification
- Pet care certification
- International professional groomers
12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate
It is your duty as an entrepreneur to understand what licenses and permits you will need for your pet store business. It is a phase you must pass when starting your business, and just like every other process in starting up your pet store business, getting all the legal documents requires time, energy and paperwork.
It is very important to state that doing business without the proper licensing is a criminal offense in some states, while many might hand out hefty fines. Here are some legal documents needed for your pet store business…
- Federal tax identification number
- Business plan
- Business license
- Resale certificate
- Nondisclosure agreement
- Business name registration certificate
- Certificate of occupancy
- Insurance certificate
- Alarm system permit
13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital
Deciding on how to fund your business is one of the greatest decisions you have to make when starting this business. You need to understand that without funding, your ideas will only remain visions in your head or on paper. You will need to find potential sources of funding, meet all the requirements, and prepare your applications or pitches to be able to land funding to grow your pet store. Ways to get funding may include:
- Family loans
- Community schemes
- Peer-to-peer loans
- Micro loans
- angel investors
- Asset-based lending
- Cash advances
- Bank overdrafts
14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business
Choosing a business location is another hard decision you have to make. Have it in mind that a great location does not guarantee success, but a bad location will almost always mean failure even before you open your store. This is why you need to be where your customers are when you are starting your Pet Store.
The location you choose must have a reasonable degree of security, access to public transportation for your customers and employees, adequate parking space for commercial as well as personal vehicles, room for an office, and that all-important sales space.
Also, have it in mind that the location of your Pet store will, on the long run, tell how long it will take your business to grow. We believe that the appropriate location for your Pet store should have a combination of visibility, affordability and lease terms you can live with.
We advise that you take time to analyze the locations that you think are good for your Pet store business. There are three things to look into when considering the location for your Pet store: city choice, location within the city, and specific business site.
- City’s trading area size
- Population and population trends
- Total purchasing power and who has it
- Total trade potential for different lines of trade
- Number and size of competition
- Quality and aggressiveness of competition
Location in the city
- Customer attraction power
- The nature of competition
- Availability of access routes to the stores
- Zoning regulations
- Geographic direction of the city’s expansion
- General appearance of the area
- Sales and traffic growth prospects of the trade area
- Demographics of neighbourhoods
Specific business site
- Flow of traffic
- Complementary nature of neighbouring stores
- Adequacy of parking
- Vulnerability to competition
- Cost of the site
15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs
When you plan to start this business, you will need a clearly detailed business plan if you want to secure any type of funding for your pet-store-to-be. It is important that you include an executive summary, market analysis, company description, organization and management information, marketing and sales management information, service or product line description, funding request, financials and an appendix in your business plan.
No matter how hectic you think it will be to write a business plan, note that the time invested here is well worth your while, even though it will take a long time. Also note that running a pet store needs dedication, determination, enthusiasm, flexibility and perseverance. In this modern age, pet parents have a tremendous sense of well-being and wealth, but you should be prepared for a sharp or prolonged decline in this business, a rise in interest rates or signs of a slowing economy.
Have it at the back of your mind that there are a lot of things that could move people away from your business, so plan for good times as well as rocky ones. Also before you open your doors for business get your office set up with desks, chairs, computers and paper products -whether it is at home or in a retail center. In some cases, this involves location scouting for a high-traffic area to open your business.
Note that it is your duty as a prospective entrepreneur to undertake massive amounts of product research to see what people are buying. Even after your business is running, you will probably spend several hours a day researching the latest pet products; we also advice that you develop relationships with manufacturers, marketers, trade show organizers, pet associations and media personnel. This will be your support network to launch your business. Then you will also need to hire personnel, process payroll and file taxes for your employees. You will also need the assistance of an attorney and accountant.
The Service Delivery Process of the Business
This business in a great way differs from other retail businesses, but still has a process involving a number of operational activities performed on daily basis like other retail businesses. Understanding this basic operational processes and workflow can help you to structure operations and lay a concrete foundation of your own. This process includes:
- Handling inventory
- Customer Service
16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed with ideas & Strategies
Developing an effective marketing strategy for your pet store doesn’t have to cost the head of Medusa. In fact, there are a number of creative, low-cost options available. What you need to effectively market your pet store is some imagination, a stick-to-it attitude, old-fashioned common sense and the ability to think outside the box.
We advise that you start by being clear about your goals when formulating a marketing strategy, the audience you want to reach, plus what the pet shop’s specific strengths are, and how to capitalize on them. Things to do may include;
- Make a Great Impression at All Times
- Always respond to e-mails in a prompt, courteous manner. Be mindful of how you answer the phone.
- It is not enough to just be polite to your pet store customers.
- It is also important to be nice to the guy on the street, the lady in the grocery store whose cart accidentally bumps into yours, restaurant wait staff and everyone else with whom you come into contact in your daily activities, you never know who your next customer will be.
- The way you treat people on a continual basis, in every aspect of your life, is an important part of your professional and personal brand, which I will get into momentarily, plus integral to marketing your pet shop.
- It may also be a good idea to devise a professional and personal mission statement. This will enable you to maintain a specific focus when creating a marketing plan for your pet shop.
- Getting Tech Savvy as Part of Your Marketing Strategy
17. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win
The earlier you start understanding that industry competition could limit growth opportunities and reduce profitability for your Pet store business, the better for your business. It is your duty and should be your obligation to understand and strive to overcome the constant competition that arises every now and then in the retail industry if you really want to survive.
Since competition is inevitable, you need to state strategies to win your business competitors. These strategies may include:
- Knowing your competitors
- Differentiate yourself from your competitors
- Understanding your customers
- Step up your marketing
- Create a unique image
- Look after your existing customers
- Target new markets
- Explore new markets
- Be the best employer
- Be optimistic
18. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers
Existing customers in any business are the ingredient and force that catapults it to its desired height. These customers understand the brand, they know the products and they know their service. This is why it is advised that you put your time and energy on these individuals rather than always trying to find new customers. There are many available strategies to retain and maintain your customers and make them to always want to come back. These ways may include
- Listen to them
- Patronage discount and coupons
- Go social
- Loyalty and reward programs
- Help desks and support systems
- Customer feedback survey
- Light personalization
19. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity
As a pet store owner, you should have a handful of fun, creative, promotional ideas for your business at your disposal. They may include;
- Host a doggie fashion show. Or, if Halloween is near, stage a pet costume contest. You can invite people to bring their decked out pets to your store, then ask customers to vote for the best costume, for which the pet could receive a prize from your store (such as treats or a toy). Post the photos on your business blog or in your e-newsletter.
- Feature a Pet of the Week/Month on your blog or in your newsletter. Whenever a customer comes into your store with their pet(s), take a photo and post it on your blog or in your e-newsletter. You could also invite customers to send their favourite pet photos for you to post on your business’s blog.
- Offer coupons and/or contests. Although this example has nothing to do with pets, it is a great idea for pet businesses.
- Give out free samples
- Partner with an animal shelter or rescue organization to hold pet adoption days. This is a great way to promote your business, plus perform a valuable service to the community.
- Write articles for a local publication
- Find a nice Pet store expert to help promote your products or services