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Leis Pet Distributing Inc.: A Different Breed of Product Provider
Gary Leis, CEO of Leis Pet Distributing Inc. (LPD), has been in the industry since 1986, when he joined Leis Feed and Supply, his father’s company. Leis started the distribution side of business in 1988 when he took to the road one day a week to distribute Leis Feed and Supply products to retailers. Eventually the distribution operation grew large enough to become its own entity, and in 1994 LPD was established as a privately owned full-line distributer of pet products. The company is still centrally located in Wellesley, Ontario, but now operates out of a growing headquarters and a second warehouse in Moncton, New Brunswick, with its own full fleet of delivery trucks.
LPD got its start by focusing on pet food products, but has grown to incorporate several pet items – bird seed, pet treats, dog and cat toys, accessories, hygienic items (shampoos, etc.), leads/collars, cages, pet beds, and food supplements.
Along with focusing on growth and diversification over its 17 years in business, LPD is focused on strengthening not only its relationships with vendors, but also the resources of its community. “Integrity and honesty is a big part of what we do,” says Leis. With this philosophy in mind, the company supports several community initiatives, including the Lions Club and the International Microfinance organization, MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Association).
Additionally, employees have profit-share opportunities and experience a workplace that treats them with respect and courtesy. “We’ve had some of the same people from first hire to now,” says Leis. How does the company achieve this? It’s simple and elementary, explains Leis: “Treat others the way you want to be treated.”
A Sizable Strategy
The Leis Pet attitude, that a company's core should be the Golden Rule has certainly resulted in success, as growth for LPD has been incredibly sizable. The company now services over 800 stores across Ontario and the Maritime Provinces. LPD delivers throughout central and southwestern Ontario with its own fleet of trucks and uses Common Carrier to distribute in Northern and Eastern Ontario and the Maritime Provinces.
These trucks are hauling an incredible array of products, as LPD holds a massive SKU database. “We have around 12,000 to 14,000 products,” says Leis. This staggering number includes products and services by A.J. Turvey & Co., BDO Canada LLP, Elmira Pet Products, Erb Financial Services, Erb Group of Companies, Petcurean Pet Nutrition, Promotech Inc., Radio Systems, as well as exclusive product brands, such as Firella Creek outdoor bird seed, commonly known name brands, and various private label pet products in the form of pet food, treats, cat litter and shampoos.
In maintaining a huge inventory across its two warehouses, Leis finds that managing its supply chain and procurement process is “extremely important” to the success of the business. Subsequently, one of LPD’s biggest challenges is inventory terms. Another, albeit lesser, challenge has come in the form of accommodating the ongoing expansion of the company’s offering and the increasing network of retail stores to whom LPD delivers. Fortunately, “We have a land base here that we’ve been able to add on to; we’ve had five additions since we started here, and we just completed our last one – another 14,000 square feet,” says Leis.
“In order to be competitive, we need to keep things new and exciting, we want to be the best source [for variety],” further explains Leis. “We carry 15 or 16 major [complete] food lines, as where other distributors carry two or three.”
Unwilling to let limited product supply hinder success, LPD stays ahead of industry advancements and offerings through ongoing research and development of product lines and vendors. The company will not be slowed down internally, and is always looking for new means of increased efficiency, such as the digital transfer of information and electronic archiving of records. “We'd like to become a paperless [business operation]; we believe it's the future,” says Leis.
A thorough upgrade of the company's computer systems was completed in September 2010, and the customized software allows LPD to coordinate its shipments to assure on time, on budget delivers. Additionally, the company's management group puts on an in-house trade show to make sure everyone understands the products and procedures, which are reevaluated by in-depth strategic planning meetings on a regular basis.
This investment in research and company developments has led to the introduction of new products on a regular basis, confirms Leis, who takes pride that LPD's commitment to carefully chosen options helps people receive what's best for their pets.
Given that Ontario has not escaped the recent recession, Leis was somewhat surprised to find that the company did not suffer from it, and he is able to say that LPD “has not seen a decrease in business. We thought the consumer would move down [in price point], but that didn’t happen like we thought it would … we’ve found that in these rougher times our industry actually gets a little better.”
In times of economic stress pets can offer comfort equal to, or perhaps even greater than, any family member, and Leis has found that people who can afford to give man's best friend the best products have continued to do so during the recession. With that in mind, people look to LPD for “all natural, organic and high-end products,” as well as intermediate and lower-end price points.
Since 1994, Leis has sought to supply its retail store customers with a diverse array of high-quality products. And its mission continues to be the same, though the company’s structure is hardly recognizable from what it was in the beginning.
“We want to be in the business for a long time,” says Leis, who plans to continue LPD's history of progressive diversification, evolution and restructuring in order to support “employees with ownership who have been here since day one,” as well as support the Ontario community by giving back some of its success. Leis Pet Distributing Inc., with its eye always on staying current, will remain best in show for years to come.