Understanding Supplier Selection Criteria: A Comprehensive Guide for Pet Store Owners

by eTailPet | Apr 8, 2024

Do you dream of becoming the next big name in the pet biz, or do you simply want to be known as the go-to neighborhood spot for premium pet food and supplies?

Whether you’re shooting for the moon or happy just making a humble living, you won’t get far as a pet store owner unless you keep your store stocked with an impressive selection of high-quality pet products — and you’ll need a carefully-curated selection of suppliers from which you can buy goods to sell.

Choosing the right suppliers for your business may seem like a daunting task. That’s why we’ve put together this guide for supplier selection criteria for pet store owners. We’ll discuss the importance of supplier selection, how to establish your own personal selection criteria, how to build long-term business relationships, and more. Let’s dive in.


Importance of Supplier Selection for Pet Stores

Your customers come to you for top-quality merchandise, informed staff recommendations, and competitive prices. It’s hard to deliver this to the customer without the right supplier providing the best pet products at the right price.

The best suppliers offer a wide selection of pet products, including the popular pet products your customers can’t live without and some lesser-known specialty items they can give a try. They have what your customers are looking for, offer it at a fair price, and reliably deliver it so your store is always fully-stocked and ready to do business.

Most suppliers will sell themselves aggressively when you first meet, but not all of them can deliver what they promise. That’s why it’s crucial to develop a systematic way to evaluate and select only the best suppliers.


Understanding Your Pet Store's Needs

Understanding supplier criteria for pet store owners starts with understanding your own needs as a pet store owner. Ask yourself: What products do you want to offer?

The one-stop shop is a popular business model, but it’s not without pitfalls, as stocking a little bit of everything requires substantial square footage to pull off and leaves little room to expand any single category. On the other hand, becoming overly specialized in one category may turn away customers that came for a different kind of product. There are risks to both approaches, so finding a middle ground is often best.

For example, let’s say you’d like your pet store to focus on offering premium pet nutrition. Pet food is perishable, so you don’t want to pad the inventory too much. Instead, you need a supplier that delivers regularly and reliably to replenish your stock.

Premium pet foods can also be expensive, even at the wholesale price point, so it would be great if your supplier could minimize those costs. Look for a supplier that can offer you discounts based on the frequency and volume of your orders.  

Doing business with the right supplier helps you stay competitive or establish yourself as the best in a given category, so it’s important to make sure you select the best ones.


Key Supplier Selection Criteria

So, what criteria should we consider when choosing suppliers?

Here are our top tips for supplier selection for pet store owners.


1. Product Quality and Safety Standards

Supply chain transparency is becoming increasingly important in today’s marketplace, so you want to ensure your suppliers are sourcing the products from reputable places that utilize strict quality control measures to ensure the integrity of the product.

After all, you can’t wait all week for a delivery only to find half of the inventory is soiled, broken, incorrect, or otherwise unsellable. If your supplier is not delivering high-quality products that are safe to sell, then they may not be up to snuff.


2. Pricing and Terms

Success in retail is all about the margins, so you’ll have a hard time making ends meet if your supplier can’t get you a good price on the merchandise your customers demand.

The best suppliers offer competitive prices that are in line or better than what other suppliers can offer. They should also be able to offer discounts occasionally to help sweeten the deal, including manufacturers discounts, promo prices, and volume discounts. 

Don’t be afraid to ask your suppliers to go the extra mile. You’d do it for your customers; why shouldn’t your suppliers do the same?


3. Reliability and Responsiveness

As they say, “talk is cheap.” 

What’s arguably more important than the product selection, quality control, and prices is the reliability and responsiveness of your suppliers. Ask them:

  • How often can I get a delivery?
  • How are deliveries made?
  • Where is the distribution facility?
  • What happens if the order is late, incorrect, or doesn’t arrive?
  • Who is my primary point of contact and how do I reach them?

Smaller suppliers may have a single person who serves as the primary point of contact, brand ambassador, account manager, and delivery person. Larger distributors, on the other hand, may have several people who oversee the account, coordinate deliveries, provide quality assurance and customer service, fill orders, and more.

Make sure you discuss the specifics on day one so you’re not stuck scratching your head when something goes wrong. Knowing you have a reliable and responsive supplier just a call, text, or email away will work wonders to put your mind at ease.


4. Product Range and Diversity

Product range and diversity is important too — especially if you’re committed to dominating one niche category rather than going the one-stop shop route. 

Going back to our premium pet food store example from earlier, you’ll want all the major frontrunners in the category, like Blue Buffalo, Merrick, Orijen, Acana, and Nature’s Variety. But there might be some equally-premium products that some suppliers don’t carry, like ZiwiPeak, Redbarn, and Jinx.

The more products offered, the greater chance you’ll find the products you need to meet your customers’ demands. And if you do happen to go the one-stop shop route, knowing your supplier has anything and everything you need is extremely beneficial.


Evaluating Supplier Reputation and Reliability

Once you’ve identified a supplier that sounds reliable and looks great on paper, it’s time to put their reputation to the test. The good news is people talk, so you won’t have to search too hard to get the scoop on the supplier you’re considering working with.

Check online reviews, customer testimonials, and industry associations online to gauge their reputation. A bad review here and there is no cause for alarm, but you don’t want to see a discernible trend that echoes the same negative sentiments.

Asking other pet store owners and industry peers may shed light on the supplier’s reputation. This may be hard if you don’t know too many people in the business just yet, but online platforms like Reddit can help. Talking to your peers at trade shows and expos is helpful, too.

If you really want to be sure, conducting an in-person site visit can be beneficial. You’ll be able to see their products and processes first hand and determine if they meet your standards. Be sure to ask for an in-person tour if you feel it may be important to guarantee the high quality you’ve been promised.


Building Long-Term Supplier Relationships

Using our criteria to identify the best suppliers puts you on the track for success in the pet business, but agreeing to do business together is only the first step on what will hopefully be a long and lucrative journey.

An ideal business relationship is founded on trust and is mutually beneficial. So, be open and direct with your suppliers. Let them know that you’re cutting your order down because another supplier is beating them on the price and challenge them to do better. Immediately bring any issues to their attention so they have a chance to rectify.

Do your best to stay loyal, as long as you can do so without hurting the business. A good supplier relationship can open the door to exclusive products, promotional opportunities, and other industry insights. You may miss out on these if you’re too busy pitting every supplier in town against one another to save a few cents on your order.

Build a strong foundation and your working relationship can yield great dividends.


Find the Best Supplier for Your Pet Store

The success of a retail pet store hinges on having a great supplier, and not all suppliers are created equal. It’s important for a pet store owner to vet a supplier individually and establish if they will be suitable for their store’s unique needs.

You’ll want to first identify exactly what you need from your supplier to ensure success, but there are some universal qualities that most high-quality suppliers have. These traits include:

  • High-quality products
  • Safety standards
  • Competitive pricing
  • Responsiveness
  • Reliability
  • Large, diverse product selection
  • A great reputation in the industry

Identifying and building relationships with suppliers that check all these boxes takes hard work on everyone’s part, but you didn’t get into the pet retail industry to shy away from challenges. 

By implementing our above tips, you’ll be well on your way to a great working relationship with a great supplier, helping you maximize profits, improve customer satisfaction, and ensure success.

Looking for a point of sale (POS) solution that’ll help you handle successful supplier relationships? Schedule a demo of eTailPet today.

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