The Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA) has assembled a highly specialised Retail Working Group (RWG), with John Grima, Managing Director of Kellyville Pets serving as its chairperson.

The RWG is designed to gather industry experts to promote three main initiatives:

  1. Unite the retail industry
  2. Improve retail standards for pets
  3. Fair trading for all retailers.

The group has decades of experience within the pet industry and each representative comes from a different sector of pet retail, bringing a unique set of ideas and strengths.

Joining Grima on the RWG are Anthony Ramsey, Owner, Crystal Palace Aquarium and President, PIAA; Todd Clarkson, CEO, IndePet; Jeremy Maitland, Director, We Know Pets and Delivery Hound; Shane Spruce, Managing Director, PETQuarters; and John Colledge, General Manager of Stores and Store Support, Petbarn.

Grima says that the RWG has many topics on its agenda that address the above three points, and that the committee will also deal with retail related disputes within the industry.

“The industry is transitioning and evolving rapidly. In order to compete, pet stores need to evolve and adopt modern retail practices coupled with a stronger ethical stance, and those who are not moving with the times risk no longer being relevant in the industry. Consumer expectations around how pets should be kept is rapidly changing in a good way and the smarter operators understand this. Pets are more like family members rather than owned possessions and retailers need to address this in their store policies and procedures and in the way they communicate with their team and customers. Our RWG is taking action to encourage this change for likeminded retailers,” he says.

Meet the RWG committee:

John Grima, Managing Director, Kellyville Pets and the RWG chairperson

John Grima is the Founder and Owner of Kellyville Pets, which is due to celebrate its 40th birthday next year. He has always been passionate about all kinds of pets and loved keeping and breeding everything.

“I always admired pet shops as a child and hoped to have one someday. I love educating others on how to include the right pet into their lives and employing like-minded passionate individuals.  

“My role evolved from working on the shop floor in the early days to now leading my business from a Managing Director position. I now also work closely on my passion of improving animal welfare standards in Australia and work with Government and other industry bodies and committees to help share my expertise and aim to improve standards within the pet industry.”

Grima says that the biggest challenge is that the industry has evolved, and as a result the way in which pet stores operate are no longer aligned with consumer expectations.

“Animal welfare is now at the forefront of purchasing decisions and that’s expected from retailers, in which case it should be. It takes a lot of work to adopt this new way of doing business, especially in line with the changing regulations. Those who are forward thinking adopt this change with open arms and are the future of pet retailing in Australia.”

Grima says that associations such as PIAA are critical for being the voice of the industry and consistently seeking improvement of standards, leading the charge so to speak.

“In our case, the PIAA aims to enhance the human bond with their pets, making the relationship mutually beneficial. Being a part of an association gives you a voice, but this only works if what you want is good for the entire industry like animal welfare of pets first and foremost.”

Anthony Ramsey, Owner, Crystal Palace Aquarium and President, PIAA

Anthony Ramsey is the owner of Australia’s oldest aquarium store, Crystal Palace Aquarium, which was established in 1947, and is also the current President of the PIAA.

Ramsey has kept pets since he was young, keeping everything from finches, to ferrets, rats and mice, snakes and lizards, rabbits, and aquarium fish. But it was aquariums that became his real passion and rapidly developed in his teenage years until he had more than 50 tanks beneath his parents’ house. He nurtured this passion and turned it into a career within the pet industry.

“As a 19-year-old working what was only my second ever job in a pet shop in Sydney, I was called into the owner’s office and told I wouldn’t be able to get any more shifts because the manager complained I acted as if I owned the place. Three years later, I was a part owner in that very same shop,” says Ramsey.

“Since then, I have owned, or part owned four different aquarium stores in Sydney and built a career and livelihood on my passion. I have always maintained an involvement throughout my career with industry associations such as PIAA, I view it as my industry community service.”

When it comes to challenges facing the industry, Ramsey highlights the constant threat from activist groups who have philosophical objections to the keeping of all animals including our pets.

“These groups are well funded, well organised, and very vocal,” he says.

“Without PIAA to hold the line and help educate and guide our lawmakers and bureaucrats to common sense positions, our industry would be far from what we have today. PIAA provides a united voice to represent and advocate for our industry and members interests.

“The PIAA RWG seeks to improve standards within our membership and in turn the greater industry. John has put considerable effort into developing a retail accreditation scheme designed to achieve this.

“The RWG is also always looking to identify opportunities to deregulate current restrictive trade laws. Some of the current projects include, increasing the list of reptile species allowed to be sold in NSW, allowing ornamental Koi sales in Victoria or pet rabbit sales in Queensland.”

Todd Clarkson, CEO, Indepet

Todd Clarkson is the CEO of IndePet as well as being an animal lover with a strong background working in retail along with sales and marketing.

“I have worked in retail most of my career and I was approached many years ago about a role in the pet industry and I had just recently got my first dog. That whirlwind experience of being a new pet owner and trying to make sense of all the products and services really helped me see the value the pet industry provides to pet owners and made the decision to join the industry very easy to make,”

Clarkson’s career started in sales and marketing in the healthcare sector and for many years he worked directly with some of Australia and New Zealand’s biggest retailers.

“I always enjoyed the retail engagement side of those roles, and I was given an opportunity to ‘switch teams’ so to speak and work in retail and have never looked back.”

Clarkson says that the speed and complexity of change coupled with unprecedented competition from both existing and new businesses are some of the biggest challenges currently facing the pet industry.

“Pet retailers, especially the independents who I represent, need to ensure they are evolving with their customers and the industry. From their online presence and marketing communications right through to what I believe is the most important factor – the in-store experience. Retailers who evolve beyond product and price and focus on the delivering the most unique and memorable shopping experience will be successful.”

Clarkson, who is one of six members of the PIAA RWG, says a strong association that advocates for the industry at large is vital.

“For the association to be successful the industry needs to engage and shape the association to ensure it is focused on the right areas,” he says.

Jeremy Maitland, Director, We Know Pets and Delivery Hound

Jeremy Maitland is the Director of We Know Pets and Delivery Hound, and has been involved in the pet industry for more than 30 years.

“I got my first job in a pet store when I was 16 years old – not just because I liked working with animals, but also I fancied the owner’s daughter,” he says.

“While I didn’t get the girl, I did get a lifelong interest in aquarium fish and pets, that has seen me manage the aquarium of a large independent pet store, work in the wholesale side of the industry, purchase and run a store with my wife, and now have started two digital pet related businesses.

“As my time in the industry has matured, my interest now lies in helping create the best life for people and their pets.”

As a long-term participant in the pet industry, Maitland has witnessed how it has evolved over the years, including a shift towards new retail channels, new entrants to the channel, and the opportunities this all presents.

“Over the past 30 years there has been a great deal of change. From a business perspective there are now so many operators in the pet channel, from marketplaces, non-traditional retail, and the growth of online retail, as well as the rise of chain retail stores. Although this presents its challenges, it also presents opportunities and the traditional pet store with livestock has now become a niche in the market rather than the norm,” he says.

“There is now clear evidence that pet ownership has a positive impact on both the physical and mental health of Australians. Access to affordable and healthy pets is one of the challenges that we will face as a community in the next decade through a combination of factors including animal activism, dog breeders becoming older and retiring, and land sizes becoming smaller.”

Maitland has been a member of PIAA ever since he began running his own business, and he brings a wealth of knowledge to the RWG.

“A strong association is best way have positive dialogue with not only government at all levels but also with the community at large,” he says. “It also provides the opportunity to raise the standards of pet care and education across the community and gives independent retailers the chance to network.”

Shane Spruce, Managing Director, PETQuarters

Shane Spruce is the Managing Director of PETQuarters, which has 10 retail stores across NSW. Spruce had a rather unconventional start with his relationship with pets, having been badly mauled by a dog as a child, which left him terrified of dogs for some time.

“In my teen years I came to the realisation that they weren’t going anywhere, and I needed to not be afraid – and the best way to do that was by learning everything I could about them. This led to a love of dogs, particularly German Shepherds,” he says.

Spruce practiced as a solicitor in his 20s but into his 30s he decided he wanted a career change and that he wanted to nurture his newfound love of dogs.

“I kept coming back to wanting to help people with their dogs, and wanting to hang out with my dog,” he says. So, he took a chance and started PETQuarters as a small single store in 2011.

Focusing on personalised customer service to differentiate the store from the bigger chains, PETQuarters has developed a successful model and has grown to recently opening its 10th store.

“I started working at 15, spending weekends fitting tyres at my family’s Tyre Service. While at University I worked for the family business, did bar work, and helped organise big dance events at local clubs. I then practiced as a solicitor, both in private practice and working in Government.

“I started PETQuarters in 2011, working six to seven days a week on the floor looking after customers. As the business has grown, I don’t have time to be on the floor anymore (I miss it!),” he says.

Spruce says that the PIAA can be central to the health of the industry in taking on the challenges that arise.

“The biggest challenges facing the pet industry are the prevailing economic headwinds we are heading into – life might be a bit tough in retail for the next few years. A devaluation of service (mostly via online operators who leverage off the hard work of independents to compete only on price). The concentration of manufacturer support to the large operators, making it difficult for independents to compete while maintaining necessary margins. A tough, fragmented, and ill-disciplined wholesale sector. As wholesalers fail, they damage the industry in many ways.”

Spruce says the PIAA RWG will work to advance the industry by being a forum for dialogue and an advocate for theretailers who grow the industry.

John Colledge, General Manager of Stores and Store Support, Petbarn

John Colledge has worked in retail for 35 years and has spent the last three and a half of those years at Greencross as the General Manager of Stores and Store Support at Petbarn.

“I started my retail career with Kmart at the age of 15 and the 35 year journey has given me amazing opportunities and taught me many skills both professionally and personally.

“I was lucky enough to obtain a role with Greencross three and a half years ago that has introduced me to the pet industry. I have always loved animals and it has been so rewarding to utilise my leadership skills while also learning about the intricacies of the pet industry.”

As a member of the PIAA RWG, Colledge says the group is in place to support all retailers in the pet industry and ensure sound decisions are made for the benefit of the consumer and retailer alike while ensuring the health of animals remains the absolute priority.

“The RWG is designed to gather industry experts to promote the three main initiatives; to unite the retail industry, improve retail standards for pets, and fair trading for all retailers. We are also a committee that deals with retail related disputes within the industry,” he says.

“Associations are critical for being the voice of the industry and consistently seeking improvement of standards, leading the charge so to speak. In our case, the PIAA aims to enhance the human bond with their pets, making the relationship mutually beneficial. Being a part of an association gives you a voice, but this only works if what you want is good for the entire industry like animal welfare of pets first and foremost. 

“The Covid pandemic has changed the face of retail and put enormous pressure the availability of team members, on supply chain worldwide and forced more consumers to shop online. We are lucky to be in an industry where retail stores are not only relevant but essential to support the Pet parents and the health and wellness of their pets.”

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