Ren’s Pets continues to expand its retail footprint with the planned opening of a new store in The Junction neighbourhood of Toronto – its second urban store.
The new location, which will open in September, is at 2995 Dundas Street West in the former space of The Sweet Potato. It’s 4000 square feet and will be renovated to suit a Ren’s store.
“We’ve had kind of the Toronto outside in strategy. Ren’s grew up in the burbs, suburban areas, the Burlington’s, the Oakville’s, the Guelph’s. The traditional Canadian cities in Ontario,” said Scott Arsenault, CEO of Ren’s Pets. “We knew we always wanted to get Toronto. That was the big prize. But there was a couple of things we had to consider. Most important was operations because we would have to make some changes based on size and then deliveries and operations of the box.”
The retailer put its first stake in the ground in September 2021 with its urban concept at Liberty Village in Toronto in about 5,500 square feet.
“Now to go to The Junction is really exciting because this is the number one postal code in Toronto for licensed dogs. You want to talk about the 50-yard line and going to where your customers are. But to get into that market there’s challenges with parking,” said Arsenault. “We’re going to a 4,000-square-foot box and that will be the smallest Ren’s and a real test of going into an urban, metro market.
“We learned a lot in Liberty and then we’re going to take those learnings and we’re shifting it and even tightening it up for this second Toronto urban store.”
Ren’s currently has 41 locations. The retailer has opened three new stores this year and two more are planned to be opened in Newmarket and Niagara Falls prior to The Junction store opening. There is also a possibility to open a store in the Maritimes in the fall.
A typical size Ren’s store is about 7,000 square feet. A few stores are about 10,000 square feet with the biggest about 11,000 square feet in Oakville.
Arsenault said the company plan is to open a couple of new urban stores each year.
“It will be on opportunity and availability. There’s a ton of developments as retail is changing with condos upstairs and retail on the bottom line. There’s so much in the works right now within Toronto,” he said.
“One thing we did learn in the Liberty Village . . . is that we changed our assortment a little bit in the sense of large bags but we’re seeing almost a one to one of frozen, which is raw food, to kibble. And this doesn’t surprise us. I would say the urban customer is probably the most educated, they’re nouveau, they’re into trends, they’re into what’s best. Raw is one of the fastest growing categories within pet food . . . What we’ve learned is the appetite for what’s new and best is real and you will see an assortment of freezers in this store that is unparalleled in Toronto.
“Our commitment is to make sure that we have the best frozen and kibble complement in all of Toronto and I think our Liberty Village is unequivocally the leader and this store (The Junction) even though we’re going smaller we’re going to keep that footprint of food first mentality.”
Larissa Wasyliw, VP Ecommerce & Marketing, with Ren’s Pets, said The Junction is a walking neighbourhood.
“These are customers that are out with their pets, going for a walk, want to stop by the store and get their toys and their treats and pick up food if they need it which is very different than a lot of our other stores. It’s very similar to how Liberty is,” she said.
“The other neat thing about this customer is that we’ve always thought that Toronto would be a big ecommerce hub for us, really capitalizing on all of our omnichannel capabilities. Liberty Village is actually our number one DoorDash store in the chain, which is pretty interesting.
“Customers are out and about walking, they might not want to carry their big purchases. It’s just as easy for them to get DoorDash, have it delivered right to their house, especially when it comes to food and raw food. So that was an interesting kind of difference for us watching the Liberty store. We think this Junction store will be the same. Really strong in ecommerce, click and collect, same day delivery by DoorDash.”