Only animal lovers need apply: running a pet shop

NHS cost accountant turned pet shop owner Hannah shares her story and advice with would-be pet shop owners and animal lovers seeking a career change.

The entrepreneur

Hannah James, owner of The Pet Shed, a small but thriving pet shop in Brighton.

Previous career

Hannah worked for the NHS as a cost accountant for 23 years.

Video case study: How to run a pet shop

The entrepreneur

Hannah James, owner of The Pet Shed, a small but thriving pet shop in Brighton.

The catalyst for change

Hannah always loved animals and had many pets over the years – everything from hamsters to snakes – so a pet shop was a natural transition and a dream job. Loving animals is pretty much essential if you want to be successful in this industry, she believes.

Another key factor was spotting an opportunity. Hannah noticed when the local pet shop was put on the market and managed to source necessary funds at the right time.

Having an eye for a gap in the local market is key, she believes – but if your area already has several thriving pet shops, you might have to look further afield to find a suitable pet shop to buy.

A day in the life

You normally arrive about 8:30am in the morning, open the shop, check the stock, put any signs out front and make sure the shop looks nice and tidy ready for the first customers of the day, says Hannah.

Pet shops are often rather cluttered, however, and informal, so don’t worry too much about this! Then, serve customers with a smile as they arrive, research new products and chat to people about the products and their pets.

You can expect to enjoy a pleasant day if you love animals and chatting to people.

Advice for anyone with the same dream

Hannah offers the following tips for other aspiring or new pet shop owners:

  • You mustn’t underestimate the importance of location. Situated between two lovely parks and next to a vets’, Hannah’s pet shop has a steady stream of customers popping in to buy their pets treats after a walk or veterinary visit.
  • Believe in your products. If you are genuine about your passion, it will shine through and your business will be successful without any need for hard selling.
  • Have a USP. Hannah’s unique selling points are her support for small local businesses and offering her customers something different that you can’t find elsewhere on the high street.
  • You need a genuine love for animals and to care about their wellbeing. Hannah insists on only stocking the highest quality pet foods, with everything as natural as possible. Also provide a welcoming environment for visiting pets and their owners, as it’s the key to loyal customers in this sector. You have to enjoy meeting people’s dogs, cats and even ferrets!
  • You need to know your products inside and out so you can explain the benefits to customers. Take the time to receive feedback on products, especially if it’s a new line. Look for solutions. One lady couldn’t find a collar small enough for her chihuahua so started making her own, which are now selling well in The Pet Shed.
  • Spend time researching new products. Hannah stocks unusual and appealing products, such as bottles of dog beer, Christmas dog jumpers, pet advent calendars and dog biscuits with unusual names. Source items not found in big supermarkets that give your customers a reason for coming back.

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