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Mike Scholtens – Manchester Pet Supplies

No pet peeves about growing pains

Companion animal may be the preferred term to pet nowadays. Especially by millennials, who make up a most valuable demographic for those in the business of providing the essentials for keeping domesticated critters happy and healthy. Satisfy this very discerning crowd and a company may prosper.

As is Manchester Pet Supplies, a Canadian distributor primarily serving Ontario, Quebec and the Maritimes.

Mike Scholtens – Manchester Pet Supplies

“The millennial shopper really does a lot of online research before making a purchase,” explains company president Mike Scholtens from his office in Brantford, Ontario. “They really want to take care of their pets.”

That they seem to be doing, often enough, with Manchester Pet Supplies’ high-quality products, found at specialty retailers like Global Pet Foods or Ren’s Pet Depot, rather than the grocery stores. They’ll even spend a little extra for quality pet foods and all natural accessories made in North America. They’ve read all about those recalls of substandard, even dangerous, foods that sometimes arrive from China, and aren’t about to gamble with the well-being of their dogs, cats, birds and smaller animals—rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, etc.

Thus, Manchester Pet Supplies is enduring the pains that make it the envy of competitors: growth pains.

Creature comforts

“It’s become our largest challenge: growth,” says Scholtens, whose father Anko actually started the business as a lawn and garden distributor. “The pet industry is definitely growing, and it’s a great challenge to have to buy more machinery and hire more people just to keep up with the high supply and demand.”

They’re doing so now in a 20,000-square-foot facility that’s likely to be significantly expanded in the next year. Has to be; the company that began as a small pet specialty operation with just six brands, now carries over 50 to satisfy the comprehensive needs of the clientele. Scholtens says the past three years have seen annual growth in the 25 to 30 percent range, Manchester Pet Supplies nearly doubling in size.

If Scholtens’ black lab, Archer, could talk, he just might vouch for the quality of Taste of the Wild dog food, among the most popular brands that Manchester Pet Supplies distributes. U.S.-made with real roasted meats and supplemented with vegetables, legumes and fruits, its grain-free formulas not only make Archer salivate but provide the ingredients to ensure peak-efficiency of his digestive and immune systems.

Should Archer sire a litter, the little ones could be raised on Taste of the Wild’s puppy blends. Or equally good brands from Diamond Naturals and First Mate, neither of which you’re likely to find in a grocery store.

When told that the Vision writer serves his cat, Stormy, a mainstream wet food that’s a staple on grocery store shelves, Scholtens advises that the feline be introduced to one of the 47 varieties of Almo Nature.

Headquartered in Genoa, Italy, with worldwide subsidiaries, including in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Almo Nature’s motto is “owned by the animals,” since this past January, all profits are being used to protect dogs and cats through the Fondazione Capellino, a pet-friendly foundation and advocate of biodiversity.

And should the writer’s cat—as cats often do—pee or vomit on rug or furniture, Manchester Pet Supplies distributes a variety of high-quality odor- and stain-removers, including makes by Nok Out, Wee Away and Dr. Elsey’s.

Dogs also being such offenders, Nok Out and Wee Away have entrusted Manchester Pet Supplies to distribute products to neutralize their messes, too.

Dogged pursuit

Dogs and cats—in that order—will likely be the prime consumers of the products that Manchester Pet Supplies distributes, but there’s also food, bedding, habitats and litters boxes for the smaller animals. While birds aren’t a growth market, the company still distributes food and accessories on their behalf.

“I would say we offer a very good service to our retailers,” Scholtens says proudly. “We make sure they have good inventory levels by distributing on a weekly basis. We like to have a diverse customer base, and we find it at the specialty retailers. It’s safer than doing business with the grocery chains that don’t always want the best brands.”

Mike Scholtens – Manchester Pet Supplies

Scholtens also says his many vendors have grown to appreciate just what a marketing bonanza they’ll get from entering a distribution partnership with Manchester Pet Supplies.

“We do a lot of different things from the marketing perspective that allows our customers to access information and place orders easier,” he says. “With technology and customer service, we’re way ahead of the curve when it comes to marketing.”

The Scholtens have always seemed ahead of the curve. When Anko Scholtens expanded his lawn and garden business to include pet supplies, the concept proved so popular that an equity firm bought them out.

A couple of years later, Mike Scholtens bought the pet supply side from the equity firm. Having worked with his father and displayed versatility by designing warehouses and managing the supply chain; he had learned the business from the ground up and was ready to assume control.

“I knew it was a sound business model that would grow well,” the married father of three young children says. “It was an easy decision to buy it back.”

More recent times have him facing challenges about penetrating new markets in eastern Canada while not growing beyond the company’s means.

And partnering with new companies that will bring more products and services to the table. Recently, SuperCan Bully Sticks and Jay’s Tasty Adventures treats were added to the mix.

“I pride myself on the growth we have had, and our employees and the great customer service we provide,” he says. “The key to our business is the relationship between our employees and our customers. We’re going to continue that.”

Likely on a larger scale.

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