Distributors Taking the Lead During COVID-19 Crisis

Ben, driver at the Gastronome Animal

Around the world, business has shifted in ways we could have never imagined just a short while ago. While many have started working from home, others have continued their operations under these new circumstances. Closely following government guidelines and operational instructions, the pet industry has adjusted their operations to keep their customers and staff safe. Over the last few weeks, we have had many conversations with PIJAC Canada members about the challenges they are facing, and how they have worked to overcome them. We recently spoke with Pierre Gadbois, CEO of Gastronome Animal in Quebec about how the COVID-19 health crisis has affected his pet product distribution business, and what they have done to adapt during this difficult time.

Like many distributors, one of the major challenges has been to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees. As safety and operational measures rolled out across the province of Quebec, a common question was asked: “How will we work safely as an essential service?”. Gastronome Animal quickly made sure to clearly explain their new security measures, and to raise awareness of what to do outside of work to avoid bringing the virus to their place of work. A major challenge has been to know if all staff has been adhering to these protocols when they are off the clock. To address this, Gastronome Animal has been adamant about their protocols, from handwashing to taking staff temperatures twice per day and sending them home to isolate if a staff member were to be feverish.

A secondary challenge has been working alongside retailers in a safe manner. With a lack of clear measures from the government for retailers, Gastronome Animal took it upon themselves to put safety protocols in place during deliveries to ensure not only the health of their delivery personnel, but also of the retail staff and customers. They have created signage to send to their customers, such as signage and listed safety procedures. So far, the feedback has been that this gesture has been very appreciated. A concern raised by drivers was that they could be exposed while out on deliveries. To safely equip them, they have not only been given protective equipment, such as gloves, masks, and sanitizer, but they have also been given innovative transportable signage, asking shoppers to keep a safe distance while the delivery was in progress.

To add a little bit of brightness to their customers day, Gastronome Animal took the initiative to send a rainbow to their clients. No, really! As a part of their “Ça va bien aller” (It will be okay) campaign, they sent their rainbow shaped cat toy to their clients with the message “We are with you dear retailer. It will be okay”. In addition to this, they have also launched promotions on items they know are the most needed by pet families right now, such as nail trimmers, inexpensive food, and leashes.

Life at the Gastronome Animal offices has indeed changed with all the new health practices. Like many, they have started doing regular meetings by phone or teleconference call. What has worked the best for them is being receptive to what staff had to say. They asked for their input and created a “COVID-19 Committee” to put in place and ensure measures are followed. As of right now, their staff is healthy and fully operational. These actions go to show how team work truly does make the dream work!

PIJAC Canada has been happy to help navigate our members through this unprecedented crisis. By working together, we have been able to create an impact to help our industry remain operational for the greater good of Canada’s pets. We are all in this together. We hope that you are staying safe and healthy. As always, we welcome you to reach out with any stories, news, questions or concerns. We will be happy to lend a helping hand.