After a successful career as a dog trainer, Jacqui Wingfield moved into retail and opened Paws on Track, a shop specializing in all-natural dog foods and treats, last month. And local pet owners have already taken the store’s ethos and service to heart.
Jacqui Wingfield applies what she learned as a dog trainer to retail
When pbwnews visited Paws on Track in Haywards Heath, West Sussex, just three weeks after opening, the store was already popular with local shoppers and, judging by the succession of happy, healthy dogs pulling their owners around the store, popular with their pets. , also.
Jacqui Wingfield’s smart and well-organized store offers a range of well-presented natural products, two freezers for raw foods and a display of bulk treats, as well as a selection of leashes, harnesses and toys. The walls are decorated with framed photographs of pets, all belonging to family and friends, including Jacqui’s two dogs.
“We had a brilliant response from buyers, all very positive,” says Jacqui. “It was even better than expected, it blew my mind.
The store’s attractive display of open treats is the best seller
“The feedback we get from customers is that they like what we’re trying to do.”
What Jacqui is trying to do is run a pet store selling purely natural food. Only brands without artificial ingredients are stocked, the vast majority also grain-free (with the exception of the insect protein ranges which include rolled oats).
“We may have a smaller range than some stores, but it’s good quality and 100% natural,” she says.
Jacqui is originally from the Sussex area but until recently ran a dog training business at four locations across Middlesex and Surrey.
“I wanted to go home, I found this unit and thought it was perfect.”
Jacqui has been retailing on a small scale since April 2019 selling natural treats at market stalls and at dog events. For the past six months she has had a stall at Haywards Heath Market, which like the new store operates inside the Orchards shopping centre, and has seen it as a useful way to gauge local demand for products she wanted to sell.
Only brands without artificial ingredients are stocked
“Everything grew organically from the training business,” she explains. “I was seeing a lack of response from dogs being given poor quality treats, as well as leashes, collars and harnesses that didn’t fit properly.
“There are shops out there that will sell you something without giving you advice. I wanted to see if I could do it differently, and give that advice and make sure the collars fit properly etc, all at the right price.
“Nutrition is everything – it affects how dogs behave and how they perform. So I took classes on the subject and started researching what products were available. I’m still learning. I’m doing this to the love of dogs is the driving philosophy.
Although the entire unit is only 747 square feet, there is ample open space for dogs to explore and feel welcome.
“I didn’t want it to be a traditional pet store,” she continues. “I wanted an open space, so it was as welcoming as possible. Everything is animal oriented.
Since its opening, Jaqui has added food for small animals
A range of workout foods and treats are sold under the Paws on Track label.
“All products meet the criteria we have set: natural ingredients, real meat, no fillers. We keep packaging simple and economical, so we can offer customers a cheaper product that is just as good. We try to empower people to give dogs the best, even on a small budget.
The packaging of the own-brand ranges is recyclable and the bulk treats are sold in paper bags. The plastic bags are biodegradable and the store’s electricity comes from a supplier committed to sustainable and renewable energy.
Community Corner: a space dedicated to products made by locals
The store’s attractive display of open treats is the best seller. Besides being a point of difference, they work well in location.
“We’re in a shopping area so people can buy a treat for themselves as part of a shopping trip, and for the dog too,” says Jacqui. “People can also buy one at a time, which they like.”
Weekends are particularly good for business: Saturdays are busy all day and Sunday is the second busiest day, even though the store is only open for four hours.
“We get footfall because of the location, and we also get a lot of repeat customers,” says Jacqui. “There are people I used to serve in the market who are now regular customers of the store.
Two freezers offer raw food
“I try to be different and offer a truly personalized service,” she continues. “I actively encourage people to bring dogs into the store, and I greet the dogs and learn their names.
“I’m here to be friendly – even if people just want advice and don’t buy anything good, I’m happy to help.”
Another key aspect of corporate ethics is being a positive part of the community. Shoppers can donate in-store to a food bank for the Kit Wilson Trust, a local relief organization, and Jacqui has also hired a student internship at a local college.
Customers can donate to a local rescue center
The shop also includes an in-store “Community Corner” – a fixture dedicated to products made by local people. Jacqui has also set up a website for the shop, with a limited range of products available for sale online and for home delivery.
Overall, things are going very well, she says.
“Sales are ahead of what we needed to be, in fact, they’re ahead of what we thought they were after a few months, let alone weeks.”
INCREASE AND ADAPT
Since opening, Jacqui has also added cat products and small animal food.
“As I learn more, I will expand and adapt the range,” she says.
The store is located in a busy shopping center
A key change is planned for early April, when a grooming salon will be added to the back of the store. Experienced groomer Emma Burrows, who worked with Jacqui at the training company, will provide the service, which is sure to bring additional footfall to the company’s retail business.
The grooming service already has a few bookings, so it’s easy to assume that Jacqui’s new business is on track to continue to go from strength to strength.