At Buddy’s Boutique in New Jersey, new pet parents can find everything they need for their newly adopted family member, as well as guidance and support. And not only are they getting what they need, they can feel good about their purchases going back to fund the St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center.
Buddy’s Boutique is owned by St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, which merged with Humane Rescue Alliance. This ownership not only benefits retail customers but also animals, as all the profits from the store are used to fund programs at St. Hubert’s.
Karen Brennan, store manager at Buddy’s Boutique shared that St. Hubert’s is an organization that is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals. “The organization believes in and provides services that support the human-animal bond and seeks to foster an environment in which people respect all living creatures,” she said.
Buddy’s Boutique is located in Madison, New Jersey, and when it opened, it occupied a small section of the St. Hubert’s Training & Behavior Center, but has since moved to the lobby of a new facility that was built in 2012.
“Buddy’s Boutique provides funding for the shelter’s important lifesaving programs, but also offers affordable pet supplies, guidance, and advice to new adopters and the surrounding community’s pet owners to help them to be successful and humane pet parents,” Brennan explained.
Inside Buddy’s, customers will find all the necessities for pet ownership, from food and treats to bowls, toys and crates. Merchandise is geared to humans who seek products for dogs, cats and other small animals. “We also offer a wide selection of St. Hubert’s apparel and gift options including, sweatshirts, t-shirts, hats, mugs and many other types of swag,” Brennan said.
The top-sellers at Buddy’s Boutique include Petsafe 3-in-1 Harnesses, crates from Central Pet & Garden, Hill’s Science Diet Pet Food from Hills and branded apparel sourced from a variety of vendors.
“My favorite product is the Petsafe 3- in-1 Harness. It has a multi-functional design that provides dog owners with a way to effectively and humanely control and train their dog. It also fits almost every size and breed of dog,” shared Brennan. “It has a tether included that safely secures the dog into the back seat of a car. I use this harness on my own adopted dog who weighs 73 pounds and likes to pull when he sees a new four legged friend!”
“St. Hubert’s mission emphasizes the importance of keeping pets within each family’s home even during difficult times,” she said. Buddy’s Boutique not only provides the funding for those programs, it also provides supplies and the guidance to transition a new pet into a home.
“Whether it’s a book on crate training and the right size crate for a new dog, or the correct size litter box for a kitten to climb into, we personally provide those services to each and every pet owner,” Brennan explained.
For attractive displays, Brennan opts for brightly colored dog and cat toys. Additionally, she will utilize twine clothes-line and pins to showcase pet apparel offerings — all in the store’s large glass window. “We currently display as much as possible in our windows and at the entrance to the store because we are not allowing customers to browse inside the store for safety concerns because of the pandemic. We want to keep our volunteers, customers and staff healthy and safe,” she explained.
The pandemic also changed other aspects of the businesses. Brennan shared that the pandemic was responsible for a significant increase in pet ownership, which impacted product availability and increased wholesale prices.
“Buddy’s makes every effort to stay as competitively priced as possible so that our customers can afford the best products for success,” she said. “Remaining competitive can be a challenge because of the many larger competitors in the market, but we keep our profit margins slim to make sure we can offer all of the necessary supplies.”
Buddy’s Boutique has just begun offering online shopping. “We have been slowly testing the water with an online presence using small offerings of apparel and other fundraising products,” noted Brenna. “So far we have had a lot of success. We are projecting a launch date for more product offerings to begin mid-November in time for holiday sales. “
Although it is too early to tell how successful the online venture will be to Buddy’s, Brennan expects a good response — especially from its base customers who may want to support the mission but don’t want to come into the store. She also shared that Buddy’s does offer door-side pick up as well to help its customers.
Brennan explained that the shelter itself has gone to appointment-only adoptions, which has stopped all walk-in traffic to the store. “We used to have potential customers visit the animals and take a tour of our new large facility. We have adjusted how we are conducting business as mentioned above. But we are seeing only very serious adopters daily and most are very supportive of the store’s mission and will purchase most, if not all, of their startup products from us, especially when they hear that our proceeds go back to benefit the shelter,” she said. “The appointment-only program has resulted in fewer customers but we have higher sales numbers per customer. In addition we have a very attractive loyalty program that customers often make the trip back to utilize.”
“The goal for Buddy’s Boutique is to get back to our pre-COVID profit numbers. Before the pandemic hit, Buddy’s had doubled sales from four years prior,” explained Brennan. “We actually just surpassed October 2019 profits this October and we are hoping that once we get the online store up and running we will see another increase in sales.”
Buddy’s also provides tips and books on how to care for animals to ensure each animal is happy as it transitions into a new home. This customer service helps pet parents to be successful with the adoptee.
“We give each customer personal support that a large store cannot offer. This is possible because our staff and volunteers are trained and have first-hand knowledge about our products and every type of pet so each adopter or customer leaves knowing they have essential information, products, and our ongoing support,” Brennan noted.
She expressed that she is fortunate to have a “phenomenal staff of volunteers that are dedicated to St. Hubert’s mission.” And This dedicated staff ultimately assists with Buddy’s bottom line and its rescues and other programs.
Brennan emphasized that customers and animals aren’t the only focus at Buddy’s Boutique. “My volunteers are my inspiration and treating them with as much respect and kindness as possible helps keep them coming back,” she shared. “I have hosted an annual gathering to promote team spirit since many of them never meet because they work separate shifts.”
Visitors enjoy the brightly colored attire and the toy and leash displays Buddy’s Boutique creates. Brennan said the displays “always brings people to the door!” Seasonally decorated signs attract customers and also help direct shoppers into the store. For more information, visit www.sthuberts.org/shopbuddys.