Canine Styles Inc.’s main boutique location offers an urban environment shopping experience, popular with affluent individuals and pedestrian traffic in New York City. The store offers 650 square feet of retail space, along with 400 square feet for its grooming services.
Mark Drendel began his journey with Canine Styles in 1989, when he worked for the original owner that founded the business in 1959. At the time, the shop was located in a 650 square foot space on the upper east side of Manhattan. Since then, Drendel has created an exclusive retail business for clientele seeking sophisticated merchandise for their pets, and expanded into three locations staffed with 36 employees.
“The original owner was looking to sell the business and I saw an incredible opportunity. The customer base was extraordinary and well established over thirty years in one of the world’s great residential neighborhoods. The original owner, Ursula Lenhardt, was willing to carry the note for seven years if I could come up with 10% of the asking price,” Drendel said. “I took over the business and with a background in retail I seized the opportunity to expand upon what was being offered.”
“It wasn’t long before the sophisticated clientele responded to the new merchandise and I saw the opportunity to introduce my own line of products,” he noted. Twenty years ago, Drendel began manufacturing but realized it was difficult to source product to create the assortment he desired for his shops. Specifically, he sought to offer “easily wearable and utilitarian apparel, carriers and bedding for dogs” that were replicating the fashion trends his clientele were wearing or using in their own homes. Canine Styles now produces two collections per year and Drendel said with the three locations and its online presence he expects successful growth.
In an interview with Drendel, he shared how he is still positively transforming operations and continuously developing a sophisticated, curated product mix for his clients.
How successful is your online business and are you looking to expand this aspect of your store?
We have spent the last three years developing our online business and see real growth opportunities here.
Describe your product offerings, both in-store and online (if different):
We do all our fulfillment for our online business through our stores — everything we sell on line we sell in our stores. We do get more into basics and food in our stores since we are a neighborhood shopping and grooming experience for our customers. We try to offer online what other websites do not, and do offer the Canine Styles line for wholesale on wholesalepet.com
What is your best-selling product in the store, and the best-seller online?
Our best-selling items are two products — our Down Puffer Coats and our Cashmere Sweaters.
Where do you source your products — shows, online, etc?
75% of product we offer, we manufacture ourselves in China. We supplement our product from shopping the shows and from Wholesalepet.com.
Do you have a store mascot? If so, what is his/her name?
My two dogs — Izzy, a two-year-old Miniature Schnauzer, and Katie, a fourteen year old Border Terrier.
In your stores, what makes a product display successful?
We are constantly updating our window displays and also our store displays. I am a big believer that you can’t sell it if you don’t have it. I like my stores and displays to look full, neat and well organized at all times. As merchandise sells we move it around and find new product to highlight.
Do you have any tips to other store owners on how to arrange merchandise to increase interest and sales?
Merchandising in an attractive and organized fashion is extremely important. We put a lot of thought and effort in our window displays and change them monthly to reflect a theme or highlight a product and keep them consistent across the locations. We promote first and foremost the Canine Styles brand and then bring in other merchandise to complete the assortment.
What has been your biggest success with the store, something you thought you’d try, but weren’t quite sure how it would work out?
We took several expensive stabs at the website until we finally found the right partners to maintain it and build it into the growing business that it has now become. The level of trust that we build with customers through the grooming business, as well as the repeat traffic, are also key.
Do you have any other information or operational/management advice you would like to share about Canine Styles that may help other retailers?
First and foremost it is about the well-being of the dog. Grooming establishes a relationship and a comfort level with us. We see Canine Styles, Inc. as a lifestyle brand and like to think we can accommodate all needs for all dogs, other than veterinary and health.