Chris Rowland, CEO of Pet Supplies Plus


Nov 04, 2014

CEO Chris Rowland joined Pet Supplies Plus in November 2012 as senior vice president of operations. Chris is a pet lover like everyone on our Pet Supplies Plus team, and he believes that the strength of our brand is in the consistent, quality experience that our customers have in their neighbourhood store. Chris is a seasoned pet industry veteran having pawed his way up the corporate ladder at PetSmart from 1996 to 2011. During the last four years he was president of PetSmart Canada, vice president of U.S. operations, services, and led the company’s launch into Puerto Rico. While president of PetSmart Canada, Chris and his turnaround team transformed a struggling regional chain into the largest and most profitable pet specialty retailer in Canada. As vice president U.S. operations, Chris directed a team responsible for new business innovation and the development and execution of strategies to maximize sales, profits, safety and the customer experience in over 1200 stores with $7 billion in sales. Chris was credited with implementing new labor management software that improved execution and leveraged budgets. In his services role, Chris was accountable for a $700 million business that included grooming, training, boarding and adoptions. He was hailed for doubling sales over a three-year period, expanding the PetsHotel business from one to 120 locations and reducing expenses 20% by leveraging growth, process improvements and employing pay-for-performance measures. Chris earned a degree in business administration, management and internal relations from the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario, Canada.  He agreed to sit and answer our pet-friendly questions.

Tell us about the Pet Supplies Plus concept.

In 1988 grocery industry veterans Jack Berry and Harry Shallop pioneered the concept of bringing supermarket style retailing to the pet supply industry. Today, PSP is America’s #1 pet supply franchise with more than 302 stores in 24 states.

Just as pets are loyal to their owners, pet owners are loyal to PSP for our wide variety of quality pet foods, pampering products, grooming services and the loving animal expertise that we provide. Click here to see our People Don't Own Pets, Pets Own People video.

Why did you join PSP?

I’ve always enjoyed the pet industry and respected the PSP model. I believe there is a big opportunity to aggressively and successfully expand the PSP neighborhood brand through franchising.

What are some of the advantages in being a PSP franchise owner?

PSP offers franchisees the opportunity to enter into the lucrative pet supply retail business without having to go it alone. We’re celebrating our 26th year with continued growth. Our support team has hundreds of years of combined pet and franchising experience. Our business is fun, simple to operate, very resilient and rewarding. Our research reports that our average shopper has more household pets than our competitors, which is more attractive to the bottom line. In fact, the average store sales for a franchise-owned PSP is $2.5 MM per year. We also offer these Pet Supplies PLUSES:

  • Single, multi-unit and absentee-ownership programs are available.
  • 65% of our franchisees are multi-unit owners.
  • The pet supply industry is more than $58 billion dollars strong.
  • Pets rule in 68% of U.S. households.
  • Even during the economic downturn pet owners spent 6.5% more on their pets. That's why we're more than 100% certain our pet supply business will continue to record consistent year-over-year growth.

Who is your ideal franchisee?

An ideal PSP franchisee must embrace with our company’s mission and culture. Successful franchise owners have strong values and share these traits: hard working, fair, honest, caring and they enjoy having fun. We look for candidates who have retail experience, exceptional customer service skills, and possibly food service, banking, or other service-based industry experience. We also believe a prospective franchisee should want to invest in our PSP franchise opportunity to take control of their future, for self-development and personal fulfillment, financial diversification and to experience the lifestyle rewards.

Tell us about the PSP market?

We know that people don’t own pets; pets own people. That’s why we offer the largest assortment of natural foods. But, of course, people are the gatekeepers and that’s why you’ll find our stores in convenient locations and our products and services priced at a great value for pet lovers on fixed budgets to the more affluent buyers.

What is your real estate strategy?

Our strategy is to out-position the big-box competition and to locate our stores in what we describe as neighborhood, daily-needs centers, convenient to where customers typically shop. Our stores are adjacent to higher-end food markets and other convenience-based retail shops. The flexibility of our retail footprint gives us the ability to take advantage of 2nd or 3rd generation retail space, ranging in size from 5,000 to 10,000 sq. feet. Through the smaller scale of the stores, we provide superior customer engagement when compared to the large box competition. You could say that PSP is the Ace Hardware of the pet supply industry. We’re America’s favorite neighborhood pet store.

What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

We are very transparent with our franchisees. We may not always agree, but if we are all focused on what our neighbors want, then we’ll all be rewarded in the end. Another PLUS is that with 170 corporate stores, we are able to test new products, merchandising programs, promotion plans and other strategies in our corporate stores before we roll them out to our franchise owners.

Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?

I have a strong work ethic and believe in empowering my team, which I get from my parents.  I’m especially fortunate to have access to a group of senior advisors, in all disciplines, from our private equity partner at Irving Place Capital.

What advice do you have for someone considering your PSP franchise?
Opening any business involves risk, so my advice is to first and always do your homework. If you follow our proven system and are a motivated franchisee, your passion for the business will ultimately determine your success.

Final question, in your opinion, why do you think PSP is a great opportunity for someone?

We’re in a fun industry that’s stable and rewarding. People continue to pamper their pets and except for the occasional finicky cat and hermit crab, pets want more and more. Satisfying that demand in a local neighborhood concept that saves our neighbors time and money, while connecting on an emotional level, is a winning combination. In the end, we help people spoil their pets.

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