Pet Centre is a winner

Good time: Pet Centre owner Jane Dee, left, and Upper Hutt store manager Lynnie Stringfellow celebrate their business award win.
Good time: Pet Centre owner Jane Dee, left, and Upper Hutt store manager Lynnie Stringfellow celebrate their business award win.

A strong focus on customer satisfaction has helped the Pet Centre win the retail section of the Westpac Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

The business has three branches, its most recently opened in Upper Hutt.

By chance the category was sponsored by Upper Hutt City Council and mayor Wayne Guppy presented the award.

He told the awards evening at Trentham Racecourse that he had shopped at the local Pet Centre and was impressed by the service.

The Pet Centre began in Lower Hutt's Pretoria St in 2006.

Owners are Jane Dee, husband Brian Dee and his brother Peter.

They moved the business to the Harvey Norman Centre by the Melling Bridge in 2010.

A second store in Porirua followed and they opened their third, in Upper Hutt, earlier this year.

Mrs Dee says the firm's point of difference is offering customers a pet retailing experience.

"We're not a pet supermarket," she says.

Staff "don't just stand behind the counter", they are out on the shop floor chatting to customers, and answering questions and giving advice.

The store has its own training programme to help with a variety of pets.

And if they don't know the answer to every question, they have contacts they can seek advice from.

Children visiting the store are encouraged to handle animals in the pet playpen.

"I don't think there is any other store that does that," Mrs Dee says.

"We want to influence purchasing decisions by asking questions and suggesting products that fit their needs." Mrs Dee says the role that pets play in people's lives is different from 20 years ago.

These days most dogs are found inside the house rather than outside in a kennel.

They and other pets are much more an integral part of the family.

This is especially true for the baby boomer generation whose children have left the nest. The baby boomers have disposable income and are likely to fill the gap left by their children with pets.

"We need to understand the things they will need," Mrs Dee says.

The owners did their homework before opening in Upper Hutt, Mrs Dee says.

They researched their potential market using material from various sources, including census information.

They realised that most of the people in Upper Hutt who are working do so in Lower Hutt and Wellington and shoppers in the CBD during the week do not reflect that.

Consequently the store is busy at the weekend, especially on Saturdays.

Mrs Dee says the shop, with its highly visible location in Logan St opposite the entrance to The Mall, and plenty of parking, is getting more foot traffic and doing better than expected.

They have a staff of 11 led by store manager Lynnie Stringfellow.

They have a boarding cattery called The Sanctuary and a new grooming and dog wash practice called Shine.

Upper Hutt Leader