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Recession Proof Pet Products

Oct 1, 2009
by Judi Perkins

In a downturn economy, people may not feel comfortable spending money on themselves, but at My Shopping Tree, they are finding that possibly for that very reason, sales of personalized pet products are way up. My Shopping Tree, and their trademark, Barn Dog Bling, seem to be recession proof, according to Shannon Albert, Managing Partner. She began her business when she purchased the personalized product inventory of a small retailer that was eliminating that segment of their business. "The purchase included their customer list, so my partner, Karen Sorensen, and I began advertising, marketing and doing shows, and it continues to grow year after year," she said. "I think the reasonable prices of the items make people feel they can afford $20 for a dog collar which will make them smile too."

My Shopping Tree focuses on personalized products, primarily for pets, but also for people. The common thread is the crystal letters that personalize the collars, the phone straps, the bracelets, or the horse tack. They also carry crystal and jeweled phone and dog charms, which along with some additional items, bring the website product total to about 100 products. "When we bought the inventory, the focus was personalized products," said Albert, "but it seemed as if the majority were for pets, and they always move very quickly." She said what is particularly attractive about the personalization is that, "since the letters slide on and off, they can be changed. You can put different charms on the dog collar or the phone strap or bracelet, so it is not something you have to live with the rest of your life. You can change them depending on your mood or the dog's mood." For cats, they recommend the smaller dog collars that are 6mm or 10mm.

They recently added dog leashes and a new product to the equine category, a category unique to My Shopping Tree. Sorensen and Albert are in the patent process to provide horses with personalized bling, too. "We were sitting around brainstorming, and since we have horses, we wondered how we could do bling for them as well," said Albert. "We came up with an idea, made some prototypes and found a manufacturer who we trusted and whose quality we liked. We are a little over a year into the patent application." The patent is for the strap onto which the letters slide. "We had a special screw made so that the strap just pops off, and you can change the letters. Then it can be used for many horses, or simply to change the look for one horse." My Shopping Tree began marketing them only a little less than one year ago. For the convenience of the retailer, they are shipped ready to sell. "The halter, strap and bling come separately to us and are assembled here, so if a tack store orders 20 different halters, we send them so that customers can simply pick one up, choose their letters, slide them on and it's ready."

While My Shopping Tree is 98 percent wholesale, they also sell retail, periodically doing consumer equine shows. Nevertheless, even with the very small percentage of retail orders, they have marked their home page with clear instructions for wholesalers, who are then taken to a form requesting basic business information. Said Albert, "We have a great variety of customers. We have pet store owners, tack store owners, flea marketers, and others who sell at trade shows around the country. We also have a couple online store front customers and a few hospital gift stores, as well as variety and novelty stores."

Their website is bright and fun, encouraging both browsing and buying. Many customers comment that it is very easy to navigate. In addition to the category buttons on the left, there is also a Specials category with routinely different products. Additionally, Albert sends an email at the beginning of every month to inform customers of the three to eight new specials.

Instrumental in the company's growth has been their marketing campaigns. They have used direct mail and Google Adwords, but Albert said the majority of hits have come from "We are also in Cover magazine every month, and East and West Coast Merchandiser usually every other month. We are very pleased with the results," she said. Although they continue to grow, they refuse to forego customer service. "We believe in quality, and we stand behind our products," she said. "For example, if a crystal falls out of a letter, that's something the retailer cannot resell. We will extra mile to help their customers be successful. "I have spent an hour with people helping them with marketing ideas, because that's my professional background and it comes more naturally to me than some."

Albert also will put together a custom package based on a retailer's budget. "If it is a very tight budget, I will make sure we hone in on the best sellers to get them started off successfully," she said. "I can work with as little as $250, and I have put together orders as big as $13,000." The minimum order is $50, and mark up can easily be as high as 100 to 200 percent. "Our products are great, and I am passionate about them," said Albert. "Lots of people can carry these products, but not everyone can provide the customer service we do." Minimum order: $50.

For more information:

My Shopping Tree
1183 Oak Ridge Road
Denison, TX 75021
Tel.: 903-337-0400
Fax: 707-313-0400

Topic: Company Profiles

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Article ID: 1205

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