April 1, 2020 – As the world changes, some things stay the same – pets have needs. Fabulous interview with Pet centar CEO Ljiljana Markov on the challenges of the new reality, and online delivery services for cats, dogs and other pets in Croatia and the region.
Sometimes it is good to take a step back.
With the current coronavirus chaos and self-isolation and #StayHome the new reality, the survival instinct takes over, and most people are concerned for the safety, comfort and survival of their immediate family. Which is natural.
But many families, of course, include a four-legged friend – a cat, a dog, or something a little more exotic.
Pets have needs, but how to service those needs in an age where basic human needs are ever harder to meet?
Cometh the hour, cometh the Pet centar solution. A really fascinating interview with Ljiljana Markov, CEO of the region’s leading pet supply service. A service which is going above and beyond expectations with an online delivery service to all corners of Croatia at this troubled time. Cat and dog-owners – read on!
1. A pet store during the COVID crisis and the earthquake aftermath. You are a lifeline for so many pets and their owners. Tell us how things have changed.
In just a couple of weeks, the world of retail has changed, completely.
Who could imagine a month ago that our cashiers would be protected with glass barriers? That all our cashier staff would wear protective equipment! almost like medical personnel. Who could imagine that customers would patiently wait in long queues to enter our stores one by one? We are also extremely thankful to our customers who have helped us keep social distance in the stores and lowered the communications with our sales personnel to the bare minimum.
We are privileged. We are able to work and keep our doors open throughout this crisis. Most of all, we’re honored with the trust of our customers who still visit us daily online and in our stores, so we have responded with really fast adjustments on all levels:
– implementing strict safety and sanitary measures to protect our employees and customers.
– reorganizing our teams and their work schedules to respond to the increased demand in our shops and online
– reorganizing our logistics capacity to sustain the suddenly increased stock levels, this is easier said than done!
– tripled capacity for online operations. We understand that so many customers can no longer visit the stores, but we are here for you – ALL OVER Croatia!
– introduced new tools to help our customers at home in self-isolation. like, for example, our new live online chat in the webshop to answer your questions and assist the less experienced online buyers.
– and we are about to introduce the “click and collect” service. So you can buy online, and pick at the closest Pet centar shop. This will help us reduce human contact and maximize safety for all.
When I talk to any of our Pet Network employees, I learn about incredible efforts and solutions everywhere. It has certainly brought the best out of our organization.
Also I have to mention our reliable partners, producers and suppliers Diusa Pet, Brit – Vafo Praha, Tolsa, Camon, or transport services company Obala logistica d.o.o. who all did many extra miles to support our supply chain and customers.
We have done so much in the last days. I’m very proud of our team and thankful to our customers whose loyalty and patience motivate us to deliver better and more each day during this difficult period.
2. What about supplies? Is the supply chain secure?
Pet centar has always been dedicated to a sustainable and fair partnership with our key suppliers, in good times and bad throughout the last 20 years, and we were so happy to experience and receive all the support in priority supply from our partners in the current situation.
Also, our supply chain and logistic managers did extra miles to overpass all logistic challenges in last 2 months and ensured regular stock inflow from EU and abroad to our logistic centers, and adequate stock even during „stocking“ peaks.
We are certain and dedicated to ensure a full supply for our customers throughout this crisis. Minor disruptions in availability in less essential goods could and will happen, but the supply chain is dedicated to provide all the necessities to our pets.
3. Has there been much panic buying? Which items in particular have proved the most popular?
I wouldn’t call this as a “panic buying”, more as a “safety stockpiling just in case”. This is a very natural protection instinct for a family, and our pets are family members. Most families stocked up on basic food and hygiene necessities for their families, so it is no surprise that families with pet(s) also felt the urge to secure food for their pet, not knowing how the situation will evolve in the near future.
This has mainly been reflected in an increased demand for food products, quality cat litter for indoor cats, and also within our veterinary pharmacies for anti-parasite (flea and tick) preparations, as Spring is here.
We see by now that demand is normalizing and customers now trust the stability of the Pet centar supply chain.
4. With people now more or less confined to their homes, online delivery options are increasingly important. Tell us about the services you offer.
Pet centar has been the leader in online pet supply in the region for over a decade, and we are successfully delivering new options to our customers to specifically address the current situation.
Last year we delivered about 50.000 online orders to our customers only in Croatia, also covering also islands.
In Zagreb, we offer a “same-day delivery” service and we are evaluating the feasibility of offering the same service in a few more cities across the region.
We can announce the launch of our new “Click&Collect” online service in the coming days, and also we are experimenting with a “Drive Through” service in response to increased demand for a safe and reduced contact transaction option with the current situation.
5. How long does delivery take, and do you also cover the islands (I am on Hvar at the moment)?
For the Zagreb area, we offer a “same-day delivery” for orders by midday, customers can choose “same day afternoon” or “next day morning” delivery. All other deliveries for the entire country are covered in 1-3 working days, and the islands are served according to courier schedules depending on the season. The only place in Croatia we are currently unable to service is Murter, due to the coronavirus quarantine.
6. What are the biggest pet-related stresses you are noticing with your interactions with your customers?
Pet parents are mainly concerned about healthy nutrition and the general wellbeing of their pet(s). Specific to our region, due to the seasonal prevalence of ticks, anti-parasite protection is an extremely important health concern for pets and their owners. This is successfully addressed by veterinary pharmacies registered in each Pet centar store, with an adequate assortment of veterinary medicines and professional advice of veterinary doctors experienced in pet practice.
Also, “first-time” puppy or kitten owners are very often overwhelmed and confused with too much online information as well, and they appreciate the honest and professional advice of veterinary doctors in Pet centar veterinary pharmacies.
7. To what do you attribute the success of Pet centar?
A productive and cost-effective business model delivered by teams of profound professionals with strong motivation, dedication and loyalty – is a strength to overcome any challenges and led us through success in last 20 years, We are also adept at adapting to market trends and movements, always doing our best to adapt, improve and exceed our customers’ expectations.
8. What were the biggest early challenges, and tell us how you have expanded?
You forced me to think back 15 or so years, and recalling so far back is on the one hand hard to connect to the current Pet Network group, but on the other hand it is such an inspiration and pride what we have had achieved by looking backwards.
From its visionary establishment so many years ago, Pet centar goal has always been quality – quality of our service to our customers, quality of products we offer to the customers and we could always stay behind, quality of the shopping experience which has always been ahead of its time and is constantly improving … and so on.
It was a huge challenge to deliver this 10 or 15 years ago, and even expand to the region outside Croatia, with very limited resources also in terms of financing capacity. It required a spirit, passion and a will to succeed, with constant learning on the way and breaking down boundaries – in ourselves and in surroundings. Nothing fancy really, it required very hard work for many people who are here with us still!
In addition to the answers above, I would like to indicate that Croatian Pet centar is part of Pet Network Group, currently operating 120 specialized pet stores in Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia and Romania, soon also Bulgaria.
A regional market leader, Pet Network Group serves 10 million customers yearly, delivering strong assortment portfolio including own private labels and consistent service excellence.
You can all find what your pet needs on the Pet centar website.