June 28, 2023
Q&A with Claire Bayliss, CEO of Kennelpak
Tell us about your background and what led you to working in the retail sector?
Having graduated from the University of Liverpool in the early ‘90s with a degree in Business Economics and Finance, I was fortunate to be offered a place on the Marketing Graduate Scheme at Great Universal Stores, now known as Shop Direct.
From there I went to Iceland Frozen Foods to launch the UK’s first national online grocery platform to complement its home delivery service. These early years shaped my career as the roles combined commercial thinking, data, personalisation, customer insight, digital innovation and brand development.
By 2000, I was part of the team at Matalan, launching its first multichannel proposition. And that was it. I was hooked. Retail is a drug. Competing for customers’ attention and share of wallet; creating the best possible customer experience; being focused on delivering financial target; the pace; and working alongside passionate colleagues. Nothing beats it.
How is the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ affecting the pet supplies segment in particular and how have you as a business responded?
It has without doubt been a challenging year. Our sector has been faced with not just the ‘cost of living crisis’, but also the was in Ukraine and bird flu resulting in supply chain shortages of various proteins and grains, which are key constituents in the production of pet food.
The management team at Kennelpak have done an outstanding job, responding at pace to ensure continued supply of our products to both our wholesale customers and our retail fascia, Pets & Friends.
Stringent cost control means we have maintained a healthy cashflow; and finally, we ensure that colleagues are regularly briefed on performance and the reality of operating a business when faced with numerous inflationary pressures.
What has been your biggest learning over the past year?
The ability to be agile and resilient are important traits when delivering business transformation however, to be able to respond at pace, think outside the box and make brave decisions has been critical to ensure that Kennelpak is well placed to grow and thrive despite such unprecedented economic headwinds.
What are the key changes you are seeing in consumer behaviour?
Customers are more demanding than ever before. And rightly so. They are seeking a retail experience that goes way beyond stocking products on a shelf. Those multichannel retailers that can offer a highly personalised customer experience, underpinned by a range of specialist services are best placed to fulfil the needs of customers whose needs and expectations are greater than ever.
This is what we do at Pets & Friends. We offer our customers a fully integrated pet care ecosystem offering everything from puppy training and cat grooming to personalised nutrition planning and weight management, alongside a wide range of specialist pet foods, treats and accessories which are available instore, online and through our subscription service.
Brand trust is more important than ever. Our customers want to be reassured that we understand them and the needs of their pets, so we must demonstrate this daily through the expert advice our colleagues offer in store or over live chat, and through the content we serve. They need to know that value for money is a given, In an increasingly competitive sector, brand advocacy is critical.
Kennelpak has been a trusted pet specialist for almost 50 years but that simply isn’t enough. We have to earn the right for our customers’ loyalty.
Looking ahead, what trends do you see shaping the retail industry?
Sustainability, social responsibility and customers wanting retail brands to stand for something more than the products and services they sell are all gaining real traction. These factors againlinkback to the importance of brand trust. Customers need to trust that we don’t just do the right thing but that we do things right.
The need to be accessible and offer convenience will continue to be important and therefore retailers need to build ecosystems that will create stickiness; payment strategies that reflect the changing needs of their customers; and ways to shop for example, marketplaces, that make it easy for them.