Larry Flaherty, director of franchise development for Pet Supplies Plus, has a wealth of knowledge in the franchise sector. A business professional with experience in franchise expansion, real estate development, and operational support systems, Flaherty has enjoyed stops with such major brands as Honey Dew Donuts, KaBloom Flowers, Papa Gino’s, and more. Flaherty first joined Pet Supplies Plus in July 2012 and is now playing a critical role in recruiting qualified franchise leads.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What sets Pet Supplies Plus apart from other pet supply retail stores?
Larry Flaherty (LF): With more than 280 locations in 23 Midwest and Eastern states, Pet Supplies Plus has earned the reputation as America’s Favorite Neighborhood Pet Store by offering a wide array of pet food, pet products, grooming services, and animal expertise in a welcoming environment.
With a friendly, pet-centered culture, where store managers and associates actually know the names of hundreds of their pet customers and their pet parents, each Pet Supplies Plus is large enough to house a broad selection of food and equipment, yet small enough to still feel neighborly.
The company has earned its success by understanding the unique bond between humans and their pets, while championing the conviction that ‘People Don’t Own Pets, Pets Own People.’
FC: What were the reasons behind corporate’s decision to halt franchise development for a time, and convert 90 high-performing franchises into corporate stores?
LF: In 1988, two veterans of the retail and wholesale grocery trade, Jack Berry and Harry Shallop had a terrific idea — they decided to bring supermarket-style convenience and value to the pet food and supply industry.
Jack and Harry’s new pet center had all of the nice things that made supermarkets so popular with shoppers. It featured wide aisles with neat, well-stocked display shelves, helpful overhead signs, ample parking, convenient hours, a friendly staff, and great everyday low prices.
Neighbor’s loved Jack and Harry’s novel retailing concept. Within five years of opening their first Pet Supplies Plus Pet Center in Redford, Michigan, they had 30 franchised locations. Soon, they were joined by a third partner, Harvey Solway, and the franchised business continued to grow.
In September 2010, PSP was bought by a private equity firm called Irving Place Capital, at which time Jack, Harry, and other owners of PSP decided to sell their privately owned franchised Pet Supplies Plus stores to IPC. As a result, IPC was able to establish a 90+ store core of corporately owned and operated Pet Centers.
Today, there are 153 Franchised Pet Centers and 130 corporately operated Pet Centers. Our goal is to grow the Pet Supplies Plus brand significantly over the next 5 years utilizing both franchise and corporate growth strategies.
FC: What improvements have been made since then that allowed you to return to franchising this year?
LF: Over the last three years since the acquisition, Pet Supplies Plus has filled out PSP’s senior management team with an industry-leading group of executives capable of executing the growth and development goals of the brand.
PSP has invested significant amounts of resources in improving its operations team, and increasing its marketing, merchandising, real estate, and supply chain organizations.
All these activities were undertaken over the past three years to better position our re-entry into the franchise marketplace. PSP provides a fully developed franchise support organization; an organization that is aligned and focused on franchisees and corporate Pet Centers’ success.
FC: Can you describe your new store prototype and the reasons for the changes?
LF: Pet Supplies Plus was founded more than 25 years ago, and we have been successfully franchising since 1991. As you can imagine, there have been quite a few store designs over the past 25 years. Prior to our latest prototype, PSP stores were beige, green, and yellow. This color combination presented a somewhat harsh, carnival appearance.
With today’s consumer looking for more of the natural food and products, we thought it would be best if our stores embraced a new natural décor, utilizing natural light where available and using softer natural tones on the floors and shelving.
New locations using the new Pet Supplies Plus updated prototype boast a fresh color scheme and emphasize convenience, functionality, and pet interaction.
FC: Who is the ideal franchisee for a Pet Supplies Plus store?
LF: An ideal Pet Supplies Plus franchisee must align with our company’s mission and culture. Our mission is to be America’s Favorite Pet Store. For a cultural fit, we look for individuals that are pet lovers, values-oriented, and have some of these following traits: hard working, fair, honest, caring.
We would like to see prior experience in retail, customer service, food service, banking, or other service-based industries. These individuals should understand the value of providing exceptional customer service.
We also believe a franchisee should want to invest in a Pet Supplies Plus franchise opportunity for reasons such as: control of future, self development, diversification, life change, and of course, they really should like animals.
FC: What regions of the country are you targeting for future development?
LF: We are targeting growth in the following states: WI, MN, IA, IL, MO, OK, AR, LA, MS, AL, NC, SC, GA, FL. We are specifically targeting major growth markets such as locations in Minneapolis, Tulsa, St. Louis, Tampa, Omaha, and Memphis.
Our goal is to recruit 35 new franchisees in 2014.
FC: Is there anything else you wish to share about the Pet Supplies Plus franchise opportunity?
LF: For an aspiring business owner, Pet Supplies Plus provides a premier retail franchise business system that enables an individual to join the rapidly expanding pet products and services market. With over twenty-five years of successful retail experience, Pet Supplies Plus provides the tools essential for success and the opportunity to achieve the American dream of independence, individual growth, and financial self-sufficiency.