WORKING THROUGH IT: Pet Supply Store Embraces Change

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Mar 31, 2020
Aunt Kerry's Pet Stop has closed its doors to the public but is offering customers curbside pickup. (Photo courtesy of Kerry Bradley)
Editor's note: The Business Journal will be running regular features on area businesses and how they are adjusting operations, innovating and coping in general with the economic impacts of the coronavirus. For story or subject suggestions, email new[email protected].

Aunt Kerry's Pet Stop owner Kerry Bradley is working with the "new normal."

She started curbside pet supplies pickup last week at her store at 3600 S. College Road in Wilmington. 

Bradley, a single mother of a 5-year-old son, has been in business for 14 years and has worked in the local pet industry for more than 20 years.

Her passion is being part of the community, Bradley said, including raising awareness about pet rescue, hosting monthly adoptions and helping local animal shelters. That, however, has been placed on hold due to the coronavirus.

Aunt Kerry's Pet Stop has closed its doors to the public, and its normal business hours have changed to now operating from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. 

The all-natural pet store, which carries dog and cat supplies, has stocked up on inventory, and along with new curbside services, the business could soon implement delivery, Bradley said.

GWBJ: How is the new business model working out for you?

Kerry Bradley: “We’re trying to figure out this new normal. We’re taking it day-by-day really. It seems to be working out great. Our curbside, people are very receptive to it and happy that we’re there at least to still provide them what they need for their fur babies. I’ve stocked my store like I haven’t stocked it ever. We’ve been through a few big hurricanes now with my store and I have never had that amount of product come in at one time.

"It was definitely great to see people taking it seriously, get the necessities they need for their fur family. And I feel like a lot of people are trying to make sure they shelter in place. And I would say at least 80% of my customers got more than what they would normally get, or make sure they had an extra bag to get them through a few weeks longer.”

GWBJ: Have you seen steady business still even through the hours and business model are slightly different?

Bradley: “I would say, 'yes.' We still have seen a pretty steady flow. We do expect it to eventually to decrease because people have stocked up. And now it’s kind of hard because they can’t come into the store to shop for things too. So right now it seems to be more of a priority on food than anything else. But right now we have been thankful that our community and our locals who support us every day are standing behind us and realizing that we’re a small business. They have been so supportive. Our customers are our family.”

GWBJ: Other than switching to curbside, how has your business changed?

Bradley: “We are trying to come up with some fun ways to engage with our customers while still keeping our social distancing. We’re thinking about doing a Facebook Live party or some sort of interactive virtual party with our customers because we do like to have a lot of parties at our store for every holiday. So we’re trying to do fun things. We’re thinking about having curbside … free giveaways. Just trying to be there to kind of maybe add a little smile into this time where it is stressful. But one thing I keep saying to my staff is all of us are in this together. We will make it through.’”

GWBJ: How are you getting your supply?

Bradley: “So, thankfully, our distributors are able to still supply us. Obviously, some things are running out. They are waiting on trucks themselves. Our industry was able to I guess lobby too that we could be considered a necessary business. So the distributors lobbied for that and the manufacturers, so that's a good thing. The pet food trucks are still able to run and get out there and bring supplies to the distributors. And I know a lot of my manufacturers are continuing production and ramping up that with the safety concerns [and] my distributors too with the safety of the drivers.

"That's actually why also we normally get our deliveries on Wednesdays and that's why we're closed on Wednesdays from now on, for right now. So our delivery drivers can get in, bring the food in, get in safely, and out safely. Because they tend to be kind of chaotic on our delivery days anyway. This way it can be a very smooth drop-off for our delivery drivers."
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