Surviving the New Retail Reality

Just like you, our staff has been adjusting how we work at PIJAC Canada. We may all be working from our homes but what hasn’t changed is the vast network of conversation we have with our members.  If anything, it has increased, as changes across the country raise different questions of clarity about what is and is not allowed in each province.

So far, across the country, pet stores are allowed to remain open, but how they conduct business varies from province to province. Last week we asked you to share what your current retail reality looks like and received many responses.

On April 4th, the Ontario Government posted that certain essential service retailers restrict access to their business by offering only curbside pick up or delivery options for their clients. This list included pet stores.  We spoke with one veteran store owning family about how their business is handling the new restricted reality in Ontario. Brothers, Kelvin and Jeff Stanke have owned Critter Jungle over 3 decades.  Kelvin was kind enough to share what they’ve been up to in the last month.

Critter Jungle, a long time member of PIJAC Canada, has two locations in Ottawa. A number of weeks ago, the family made the decision to switch to curbside and delivery for their customers.  They take orders by phone and email, stack the orders inside the store and deliver as customers arrive.  They have installed a doorbell and a basic table set up with a plexiglass shield to keep both staff and customers safe.  The delivery side of their business is growing and there is the potential for a new online e-commerce option.  Beyond the reduced store hours and very difficult decision to lay off some staff, the business is holding its own.  When asked about what has helped them weather the situation, Kelvin had this to say, “Customer service is number one.  In order to maintain our quality of service we needed to remain flexible, look at our options and work together to brainstorm workable solutions.”

The team put their heads together and are using all the resources at their disposal.  This includes leveraging their social media reach to stay in touch with customers.  Posting pictures of what is available on the shelves and even being available for online chats to answer questions.  “During our 33 years in business, we have always adapted to the times and to the new way things are done. It forces you to be creative and flexible.  Technology now lets us make those changes more quickly.  We started to realize how important e-commerce really is, that we needed to be part of that world and this situation has pushed us even faster than we anticipated. In the end it’s all about helping the customer.”, says Kelvin

Discussions with other members have revealed common frustrations such as the imbalance of rules between different types of businesses, extra costs, and increased expenses for payment processing.  While we have requested clarity from provincial governments about interpretations of the language used in their legislation, it is a waiting game.

For members, if you’re in need of some additional services to help get you through COVID-19, your joint PIJAC Canada / CFIB membership gives you access to a library of options, including access to the following:

Shopify – Build your business website with a free trial

Chase  – Save thousands of dollars on payment processing fees

Cyberimpact – Enjoy a 50% discount on email marketing.

Shiptime – Save more on shipping

Selectcom – Helping you work from home

Vubiz – Free online courses for employees at 75% off the regular price

Payworks – Calculate your 10% wage subsidy

As we navigate this situation together, please feel free to connect with us with any question you have or to share stories of how you are adjusting and engaging your community. We are happy to hear from you.