Pet Obsession, Franchising Boosts Pet Supplies Plus
As Pet Supplies Plus CEO Chris Rowland tells it, and as I’ve seen through the increasing number of cats and dogs in family Christmas photos, it’s become an increasing trend for pets to be seen as “members of the family.” He’s has seen the evolution firsthand, through his parents—and his fast-growing retail brand.
“My parents are 85. We had a dog when I was growing up that was tied in the backyard—now they have a poodle that sleeps in the bed with them,” Rowland said.
As consumer spending in the pet industry hit an estimated $69 billion in 2017, Rowland anticipates strong growth in the future as the newest generations have a much stronger affinity for their pets.
“Do I think it’s going to slow down? No,” Rowland said. “I think part of it is just how culturally dogs, or pets, have become part of our lives, and how much humanization of pets has happened.”
As this “pet humanization” has ramped up, Pet Supplies Plus has clearly been a benefactor. Last month the company opened its 400th location, and Rowland says the company plans to hit 500 stores by mid-2018.
As the company has ballooned from 260 locations in 2012, Rowland credits much of the company’s success to its strategy of becoming more franchised-focused in recent years.
When Rowland joined the brand from Petsmart in 2012, he says its original goal was to grow corporate stores. However, he found the pet industry to be underserved on the franchising side, and thought a renewed focus on franchising would bring in new, passionate franchisees. Soon the brand implemented more resources for training and support, and set out to find operators that fit with the culture at Pet Supplies Plus.
“People are looking for opportunities if they can look for a new career, and something they can be passionate about. Pets fit that niche very well,” Rowland said.
Rowland said they have a good mix of single- and multi-unit operators that are passionate about the industry. The company’s average units are just over 2 per operator, but the company has 40 locations with its largest group.
Rowland says the franchising initiative is appealing for those who love pets and want to have their own store dedicated to the experience, perfect for those with feline or canine family members. Potential franchisees technically don’t have to be a pet lover to join the Pet Supplies Plus brand, but it’s strongly recommended.
“We don’t outright call it out, but we spend so much time with them and talk about how important that aspect is, that I think people self-select out long before we get to have those conversations.”