We spoke to Philip Preston, manager of family-run Ideal Pet Store in Clitheroe, Lancashire to find out.
In the 50 years since Ideal Pet Stores opened its doors, the world has changed beyond recognition and with it, the way people shop.
“You don’t keep the doors open that long without knowing how to adapt,” Philip points out. “The way people shop has changed and there are not as many people on the high street these days. A lot of people shop online and people can buy pet food, for instance, from the supermarkets. Where we can stand out is by offering more options, speciality foods and other products you can’t buy in Aldi or Home Bargains. We have a huge range of rabbit foods for instance, and that definitely helps maintain the footfall we need.”
The trick, as Philip and his family have learned over the years, is to give people a reason to visit. Once inside, they tend to buy more than they came for. “That challenge is always the same; getting people through the door,” he explained.
“We make sure we compete on price wherever possible. Once people come in they realise they get a different kind of experience than they get in a supermarket. They get a friendly greeting and advice when they need it, plus of course they can look at the livestock on site - we sell everything from rabbits, guinea pigs and hamsters, to fish, small birds, reptiles, and spiders.”
That range tells a story of change over the years, the ability to adapt that has enabled the store to keeps its place as a mainstay of the high street.
“When my father in law opened the shop, it was just an aquatic shop selling cold water and tropical fish, cat and dog food. There wasn’t the vast array of products that we have now. Part of the secret to our longevity has been to adapt, but carefully. We’ve always watched the pennies and bought wisely so we can sell products at a fair price, offer a good personal service, and provide little extras like free delivery.”
Naturally, when Philip talks about the business, his pride shines through. “I’m really proud of our shop and I love that fact that so many locals still come in. I’m always happy to get some animals out so the local kids can pet them when they come in with their parents after school. It’s good for the animals to have human interaction and nice to see them enjoy it so much.
“But the biggest sense of pride has to be our longevity. It’s amazing really that we’ve been here 50 years and are still going strong. So many businesses have come and gone in that time and the landscape has changed a lot, so we must be doing something right.”
As for any business, insurance is very important for Ideal Pet Store, as Philip is quick to point out. “No-one wants an accident to happen in store so we take great care to maintain a safe environment, but accidents do happen. That’s why having the right insurance is so important. It protects all that history against the unexpected so we can get on with making sure every customer gets the advice they need to buy well.”
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