The Power of Purchasing Pet Product Provincially

By Doug Marrin, STN Reporter

Pet food is one of the most recent supply chain shortages to trouble consumers. But while large merchants struggle to fill their shelves with food for our furry family members, independent retailers again come to the rescue.

“One issue is the distance of your supply chain,” says Keri Busshaw, owner of the Dexter Mill. “The farther your product travels, the more likely it will be disrupted. What we’re experiencing here at the Mill is closer sources have little or no interruption.”

Dexter Mill is known for selling quality pet foods, and its shelves are fully stocked. Bushaw maintains their success is a result of buying a domestic product close to home. This is something Dexter Mill has witnessed over the past two years.

Dexter Mill is an independently owned retailer that has been able to keep its inventory full while bigger operations struggled.

“We first saw it during COVID when there were meat shortages,” says Bushaw. “All of our meat is locally sourced, and we never ran out of product. Later, the same rank true with clothing and pet supplies. Stores getting their goods from overseas couldn’t stock their shelves. We get ours from places like the UP and Minnesota and never had a problem.”

Another advantage independent retailers have is their ability to navigate the supply chain quickly. If one supplier cannot fill their order, they can click to another. Huron Pet Supply on Jackson Avenue is another popular stop for pet owners. Like the Dexter Mill, its shelves are full, and Manager Kyle Williams explains why.

“If I go to place an order and the product happens to be out, I can check my other suppliers until I find it,” says Williams. “Somebody always has what we need. Supply shortages haven’t been an issue for us. The ordering system of the big chains is less flexible, involving contracts and agreements. If their supplier can’t fill an order, it’s not so easy flipping to another one.”

Williams also explains that, ironically, the same manufacturers who can’t fill the shelves of the big guys continue to supply the small, independent retailers.

“Some of the pet food we get is the exact same stuff sold to the big chains, but it’s packaged with a different label for independents,” says Williams. “The manufacturers cannot sell this label to the big stores. For whatever reason, we’ve been able to get our orders filled while the big retailers haven’t.”

Huron Pet Supply on Jackson Avenue is family owned and operated. The store has been able to keep food on the shelf amid all the uncertainty and supply disruptions.

Other problems plague large retailers, too. In a May 19 Washington Times article, Sam Kain, a finance professor at Walsh College, observed that inflation in production costs has caused some retailers to discontinue certain cat food brands because they have become too expensive.

The article also states that in April, Trader Joe’s discontinued four cat food and two dog food brands, citing “inconsistent availability and ongoing sourcing issues.”

One of the drivers of pet food inflation has been a shortage of aluminum for the cans. A fire closed an essential Chinese aluminum plant. A spike in aluminum prices from pre-pandemic levels has also caused a slowdown in its production.

“I’ve read that the supply problems come from getting product from overseas,” says Bushaw. “I don’t know the details of all that, but I can tell you that we get almost everything locally and domestically and haven’t had a problem in the last two years.”

It’s all just more reason to shop locally.

Photos by Doug Marrin

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