When Hans and Gail Petiet purchased Tails Pet Centre in Tea Tree Gully, South Australia, it was 2008 and in the midst of the Global Financial Crisis.

With neither having experience in the pet industry before, the couple performed an extraordinary job to not just keep the business afloat but to continue to grow it.

“We came in green, as I had come from a trade background in stone masonry and Gail as a legal secretary. Looking back, having purchased the businesses in the early days of the GFC, we are amazed in our gumption to press ahead with such an endeavour during those uncertain economic times,” explained Hans Petiet.

It did not take long before they had outgrown their available space, due to an increase in range and stock holding, which called for major reconfigurations of the store.

“One of the major changes was building an extension of the showroom into the warehouse section, and moving all the aquariums with the related food, accessories etc into the new room aptly named ‘The Fish Room’.”

Part of the premises has a large warehouse section in which they were able to place two shipping containers to store stock in. As part of this development, came the need to purchase a forklift truck to help with stock handling to ensure they were well placed to cater for their customer’s needs.

“In the 14 years we have run the store we have made many improvements and changes. Our yearly turnover has increased dramatically since we have run the store, with our customer base and stock holding growing exponentially.”

Utilising space is paramount to Tails Pet Centre, and by redesigning the layout of the store they have improved their customer experience and increased turnover.

“Two of the improvements we have implemented are to design and build a new counter with two tills to accommodate the increase in patronage. This has been moved further into the store to give a more balanced and inclusive feel to the shopping experience.

“Another addition is the construction of our ‘treat bar’ which has been made in the shape of a dog bone and has been a point of interest with our customers.

“Dog and cat food are to the left of the store when customers walk in, and accessories and treats are towards the centre of the shopping area with bird, cat, and small animal items in the other areas of the store. We also had a room which we removed part of the wall to make entry easier and this room contains our chillers and freezers for cold and frozen foods.”

Tails Pet Centre always tries to differentiate itself from competition by stocking not only the main brands, but also unique offerings.

“We stock all the major quality and popular food brands. When it comes to accessories we try and range items that have a point of difference. Some of the lower priced items available tend to be in many of the corporate big box stores and are heavily discounted. I have aimed to range more unique products for this reason in a bid to make us stand out and a place where customers feel the experience is unique.”

Petiet says the experience they look to give their customers is one that makes shopping as relaxing as possible and they aim to make the occasion memorable, as they are shopping for a family member after all.

Overcoming adversity

Just over five years ago, disaster struck when Hans Petiet was involved in a cycling accident which resulted in severe injuries and a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Having to spend an extended period in hospital and unable to run the business, the Tails Pet Centre staff stepped up.

“My amazing staff stepped up and took over, keeping everything going, to which I am eternally grateful. It has reinforced in me the need to have staff who enjoy the working environment, but also are passionate about the industry.”

That passion for the industry transcends to the enjoyment the customer experiences in-store, and one of the main pleasures Petiet receives is his interaction with those customers.

“Most if not all customers who walk in our door are coming in to purchase something for the animal they love, so for them it is a feel-good experience. This makes the interaction with the customer a great experience. This has always been the case and is one of the reasons I enjoy working so much in this industry.”

Aside from the improvement in-store, Tails Pet Centre has been working on a functional website.

“Our website was built many years ago, but a couple of years back we had it rebuilt with the ability for us to add content. One of the areas we concentrated on was the FAQ page which we called our ‘Knowledge Centre’.”

Petiet was advised to only have a few points on the FAQ page but decided to do the opposite and make it a go-to page with a variety of information for pet owners.

“My idea is to have it as a reference for adults and children to glean information for school projects etc as well as functioning as a FAQ page.”

The emergence of corporate stores matched with an online presence means Tails Pet Centre needs to constantly update in order to stay relevant.

“I see a need to constantly renew the store to make it a go to place for my customers, not only in appearance to enhance the shopping experience, but also to be a value for money place to shop.”

This article was originally published in the November 2022 to January 2023 issue of Pet Industry News.

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