What are some of the frustrations you have about the (mis)information your customers have been exposed to about pet food and nutrition?
Pets are like people. A diet that works well for one dog may be wrong for the next. This may feel like conflicting advice to people who care for pets and it is very difficult to weed out what is important with so many foods, so many philosophies regarding pet nutrition. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of helping customers make decisions that affect their pets.
How much of your job is nutritional education and counseling? Do you offer seminars or other continuing education opportunities through your store?
A significant part of my job is learning about nutrition and furthering it on to my clients. I’m constantly reading articles and books about pet care, constantly talking with pet owners about their experiences. I speak with veterinarians regarding their experience as well as sales reps and manufacturer representatives to try to gain a well-rounded base of knowledge. I don’t offer seminars yet but I am a good listener with decades of experience who loves to talk shop with anyone who comes in.
Do you have some success stories to share about how good nutrition has helped customers to eliminate health problems?
Nearly every day, I speak with customers whose pets are manifesting food allergies in unexpected ways like yeasty ear infections, obsessive scratching and paw chewing. Trying a different protein or eliminating corn and other grains often makes a quick and significant improvement. This is one success story I see quite often.
How did you choose your foods, or what defines foods that you will agree to carry, and what makes you decide against a certain food? Would you be willing to eliminate a certain popular food if something changed about it that you didn’t like? What sort of thing would that be that would make you do this? How would you handle it with your customers?
I try to offer foods that will match up with anyone’s budget while still providing the best nutrition. I hope that I have something for everyone. Obviously, I steer clear of any foods manufactured in nations that have proved to be too lenient in their manufacturing practices (like China.) Mostly, I sell foods manufactured in the USA but I also sell some Canadian brands as well. One of the most frequent reasons I decide to sell a food is customer request. I love special orders. Once a line of food has been requested frequently, I find some shelf space for it.
Have any of your foods been affected by a recall? Of so, how did you handle it?
Recalls seem, sadly, to be an unavoidable facet of this industry. Even brands which I consider to be diligent in their safety practices have had recalls. I stay on top of things. I keep a pet foods category in my news feeds so, by the time I get the news from my vendors, I usually have the product off the shelf and packed up for return. There has been several occasions that have forced me to drop popular brands from my shelves. Manufacturers that have had more than one recall or who have handled the recall poorly. The foods I keep are those with the fewest recalls for certain.
How do you stay educated about food and news in the industry, and what are some of the challenges to this?
It’s difficult to stay on top of industry news. So many of the voices I hear are biased. Sales reps and manufactures all want to sell their product. The Whole Dog Journal provides some great independent analysis. Also, the pet industry is huge. Americans spent $56 million on pets last year. As a result, articles on pets and food pop up frequently in all sorts of reliable publications.