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Case study: Tricks for your retail center from an in-clinic pet boutique
Metairie Small Animal Hospital in New Orleans has its own in-clinic pet shop: Silver Collar Pet Boutique.
Assistant practice manager Amy Kennedy remembers when Metairie Small Animal Hospital in New Orleans only had room for some leashes, collars, and pet food. But that all changed when the practice moved to its brand-new location, the 2004 Veterinary Economics Hospital of the Year, replete with the in-clinic Silver Collar Pet Boutique.
Silver Collar Pet Boutique
Silver Collar has plenty to entertain people waiting in the reception area or running in to avoid the hassle of a warehouse-style retailer. Items include toys—"We stock and recommend virtually indestructible ones," Kennedy says—as well as pet carriers, pet clothing, pet food, and pet-themed housewares that people buy as gifts.
With a few years of managing the store under her belt, Kennedy's learned a thing or two. Here are her top tips to get your retail displays and alcoves in tip-top shape:
1. 'Tis the season. When National Pet Dental Health Month rolls around in February, Kennedy is ready with a table devoted to toothbrushes, mouth rinses, and more. She stocks products doctors recommend, and her displays support the clinic's overall dental health message. In hot weather, Kennedy highlights pet water bowls for travel; during hurricane season, she's ready with evacuation kits.
2. Everyone's on board. Kennedy or another team member keeps the doctors up to date about what's in the store, and she recently led a field trip for the whole staff to peruse the aisles. That way when a client tells a veterinarian that her dog destroys toys, the veterinarian knows there's a better-designed chew toy for sale right down the hall, Kennedy says.
3. Low tables beat high shelving units. The lower the merchandise, the better, Kennedy says. A client who peeks in can see all the merchandise available.
4. Run the gauntlet. Kennedy has recently arranged the display tables so that a walk through the store means clients will see a little of everything: dental products, hygiene, food, housewares. Don't bury the retail; highlight it.
5. Don't compete with superstores. Silver Collar Pet Boutique has such basics as dental products and food, but its toys, carriers, and pet clothes tend to be high-end. Until recently, Silver Collar was one of only two pet boutiques in New Orleans, so clients came for pet-themed gifts.
Kennedy says the boutique turns a profit and pulls its weight in client satisfaction. "Our clients enjoy having something fun to do while they wait," she says. "And they know that we wouldn't sell anything we wouldn't personally recommend. It's like getting the veterinarian's blessing on your purchase."