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Tips on succeeding in retail from Australia’s largest online retailer of pet supplies

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My advice to anyone running a business in the retail sector?

To remember that success comes from understanding your customers.

Once you know what they want, you go out and find a way to give it to them.

The success of my company, My Pet Warehouse starts with providing great products and to do that, I learned from what was already successful out there in the retail space and came up with products that I thought those types of customers would want for their pets.

What does your customer want?

So, I would be looking at an IKEA catalogue and thinking, ‘I would like a bed for my dog – so what would go with IKEA furniture?’

Then it’s about designing something and sourcing someone who can make it – whether they might be in Australia or a supplier from overseas.

I spend a lot of time on the retail shop floor and when I am not walking my shop floor, I’m walking someone else’s.

I have done focus groups and read the results and I have seen the data collected by surveys from customers and it can all be useful but customer surveys don’t show passion in people’s eyes – they don’t show when people are sad on the inside, or happy.

Your customers know what they want. Just listen to them.

Scope out the competition too

Looking at what your competitors are doing and learning from that is also important.

You might go into the business of a direct competitor to see the way they do things and you can also go into the business of someone who is not in your space at all – you can still learn something about the way they lay their shop out, or the way they treat their customers.

When you are investing a considerable amount of money in a business, you want to get it right.

The biggest mistake too many business people make?

Spending more than you earn.

My best advice for anyone in business?

Spend less than you earn.

My own inspiration is Sam Walton from Walmart in the US.

I’ve read his book half a dozen times.

I think self-belief is critical.

I didn’t always have it – I think I’ve only really learned it in the past year.

If you have a belief in yourself, it’s a powerful thing.

Once that is in place, focus on what you love, do your research and, always listen to your customers.

Retail is detail.

Retail is my work, it’s my holiday, it’s my golf game, it’s my obsession.

It can make you cry and it can make you feel frustrated – but when you get it right, it can be amazing. I still can’t believe I get paid for doing something I love so much.

Philip Bartholomew is the founder of My Pet Warehouse, Australia’s largest online retailer of pet supplies.

Philip Bartholomew

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