When we adopted Copper the News Hound Trainee from the Brunswick County Animal Shelter, he had nothing but a leash. As anyone who has added a pet to their family knows, pets need stuff, lots of stuff. So Copper’s first trip out into the people world was shopping at Pet Supplies Plus, 2823 Midway Blvd. in the Midway Commons shopping center. He promptly peed on the floor. But that wasn’t a problem. The staff, who loves having pets in the store, took it in stride and helped us find all the new puppy stuff — toys, a bed, a new collar and leash, treats and food. Since then, shopping at Pets Supplies Plus is one of Copper’s favorite things, and for our part, we love being able to shop local and find everything we need for our new little buddy. 

There’s a lot that goes into running a pet shop, so we spoke to Pets Supplies Plus manager Aaron Smith about how the store operates, what they can do for local pet parents, and even some plans for the future.

Tell us a bit about Pet Supplies Plus, like what you carry and the services you offer.

We are a full service pet store, stocking merchandise for dogs, cats, reptiles, fish, small animals, and birds. The business premise is that we carry 90 percent of the product that a big box store does, in 70 percent of the space, and with a focus on old-fashioned customer service. We also offer a self-service dog wash, local delivery, and curbside pickup.

Is Pet Supplies Plus a franchise? How does being a locally owned store with national connections help?

We are a locally owned franchise, and this is our only location! Being locally owned means that all of your purchases come back into the local economy, and we really care about what happens in the store, because these are our friends and neighbors shopping here. Being part of the national PSP group gives us the buying and pricing power of a national chain, making us competitive with the big box stores on price and selection. We are normally less expensive, but whatever we are not on, we offer price matching.

What separates the items you carry, particularly the pet food, from what people might be more likely to find in a grocery store?

We carry both options, including the same products that you would find at a grocery or farm store, as well as several options they do not carry in that same quality range and price point. Our primary focus however, as you insinuated, is on the Natural and Premium segments. In that area, we have a wide variety of options for different dietary and lifestyle needs, including traditional kibble without the fillers, premium quality ingredient sourcing, and freeze dried or raw for nutritional density. Even in the Natural and Premium segments, we have a wide variety of price points, from economical bang for your buck to “no expense spared” ultimate quality.

Can people find a pet at the store? Any adoption options?

We sell a variety of pets in four segments; small animal, reptile, bird, and fish. In small animal you would find multiple breeds of gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, ferrets, and a wide range of other options for special order. In reptile, we stock snakes such as ball pythons, corn snakes, king snakes, and sand boas, chameleons, bearded dragons, geckos, and a massive selection of other lizards, snakes, and turtles for order. In bird we stock a variety of parakeets, and we can order numerous species of parrots and other avians. In fish we have a huge selection and variety in tropical and cold water fish, with almost unlimited options for special order.

While we do not keep dogs or cats in store, we do hold adoption events, monthly for cats, and intermittently for dogs.

How do you help customers with questions? Like matching treats and toys to a pet’s breed and age?

We love helping customers find what they need! One of the very first things I talk to potential employees about in interviews is my personal focus on customer service and how that aligns with PSP’s corporate business model. There should always be someone on the sales floor to assist, and we ask questions to find out what someone needs, because many times they may not even know themselves. For example, if someone is looking for a low calorie or hypoallergenic treat options, I would take them to our freeze dried section and show them the single ingredient options. If someone comes in looking for skin products to combat itchiness or dry skin, we take them to our dog or cat health sections, but many times we end up in the food aisle because most skin issues in our furry friends can be traced back to fillers, low-quality ingredients, or allergens in their food. So someone may come in looking for a hot spot spray, and end up with a bag of food instead. We would rather fix the real problem and have happy, healthy pets than treat the recurring symptoms.

Can you tell us how the self service dog wash works? Is that a popular service?

The self service dog wash is extremely  popular. Just think about it — bring a dirty dog in, take a clean one home, and we take care of all the shampoo, towels, and clean up afterwards. So rather than destroying your bathroom and your back, bring your baby in and let them get clean, while we give them pets and treats. A single wash is $14, but we offer a Dirty Dog Discount program that has five washes for $40. Any wash, as mentioned, includes the tub area, four different types of shampoo for different needs, towels, high intensity air dryer, and us cleaning and sanitizing after you are done.

You welcome pets in the store (Copper the News Hound loves to go shopping), so any advice for shopping with a pet in tow?

We love having pets in store! I told someone a few days ago, as long as they are friendly, bring your moose in. We have had everything from dogs and cats to ducks, monkeys, and pigs. If you are bringing your baby in, no matter what the species is, just make sure they are friendly, or at least okay with our other neighbors, on a leash or in a cart, and if you are okay with it, ready for treats and pets because that is the best part of our day.

How does your inventory change seasonally, if it does?

Our inventory in general stays consistent throughout the year, but we do get a large amount of seasonal goods for all the seasons and major holidays! Whether your pup needs a St. Patty’s sweater, or your rat needs a Halloween costume, we should have it. We are also always tinkering with individual products, bringing in new options and discontinuing things that neighbors are not buying, which gives us the ability to special order a wide variety of things we may not keep in stock, and constantly be on the cutting edge of what is new in the industry.

Any plans for the future of the store?

We are are always fine tuning the experience and options we have in store, but we are also planning to add a program called The Nail Bar with a trained associate scheduling nail trims and basic services in the store in the next few months. I am not sure if we will ever be able to do full service grooming, but never say never.

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