Ren’s Pets Expanding Urban Concept Store Model in Toronto Market [Interview/Photos]

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Ren’s Pets, a leading Canadian specialty retailer of pet food and supplies, is continuing to expand its urban store concept with a new location to open in The Beaches, in Toronto, in the fall. 

It will join the initial launch of the concept at Liberty Village in Toronto and another location scheduled to open in February at The Junction.

Larissa Wasyliw, VP Ecommerce & Marketing for Ren’s Pets, said the company has a Toronto urban expansion strategy that it is focused on because of Toronto’s huge population and high pet ownership statistics.

“It makes it a great candidate for Ren’s stores but we knew that we wanted to be established in the GTA before we decided to tackle Toronto. So the Ren’s brand is very well known around the city of Toronto and then in September 2021 we opened our Liberty Village store which is just amazing for us,” she said.

Future Rens Pets Beaches Location

“It’s become such a success and it’s more of the smaller format. We use different fixtures inside and signage and it’s a completely different customer I would say because of that community being more walking . . . In February we’re opening up in The Junction in Toronto as well and The Beaches will be the third location in September this year.

“We’ve really identified 10 to 15 different locations across the city of Toronto that we think are great areas for Ren’s to have stores.”

Ren’s currently has 45 stores in Ontario and the Maritimes, with at least 10 additional new stores currently scheduled to open in 2023. 

“We expect to have two more added to that list,” said Wasyliw. “So we feel that by the end of 2023 we’ll have 57 stores which is phenomenal growth over the last four years.

“Pet has always been an amazing stable category for retail. It’s an area where traditionally we see sales which are pretty good depending on the economy. With Ren’s we are a specialty pet retailer and really where our niche is is in premium high quality brands.

“So what we’ve been seeing from our customers is that even though there is a little bit of let’s watch our wallets in the economy right now, they are still highly interested in purchasing the best food for their pets because over the years pets have become family. They are really part of the household and especially during COVID that really increased pet ownership over those couple of years and now people just can’t live without their pets. So we just see the very big demand in primarily Ontario and we’re also in the Maritimes for more Ren’s locations with the specialty high quality premium brands that we carry. That’s really what our differentiator is.”

Image: Rens Pets Liberty Village

Expansion this year will include the two Toronto stores, another store in New Brunswick, two first stores in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland, and stores in Brockville and Cornwall as well as St. Thomas and Owen Sound. A second location is also going to Oakville which was the company’s first store 48 years ago. She said two more will be coming as well in the GTA area that have yet to be announced.

“We just think there’s so many opportunities for us to still have locations,” said Wasyliw. “And the opportunities are there for us to do that with real estate.”

Rendering: Rens Pets Junction

Scott Arsenault, CEO at Ren’s Pets, said the company is excited about opening in The Beaches as it knows the area has a very passionate pet community who is looking for the type of premium pet food, treats, and toys in the best brands that Ren’s carries. 

“The new location couldn’t be more perfect, right by the grocery store, banks, library, and park which leads to the beach,” he said.

The Beaches store will have a 6,000-square-foot footprint, and feature Ren’s best selection of dog and cat products. This includes aisles of high-quality dog and cat food, displays of treats and toys, plus a special grooming section. There will also be 15 doors or 30’ of large walk-in freezers for raw and frozen pet food, one of the biggest selections in Toronto. The overall look of the store will have a fresh boutique style look, using updated signage, barn board and brick accents, and new styles of fixtures.

“We learned a lot opening our first urban location in Liberty Village, Toronto,” said Arsenault. “It showed us that pet parents in the city wanted smaller to medium sized bagged food, along with a large selection of raw frozen food. They loved bringing their pets in frequently when out for a walk to pick up a new treat or toy. We ended up expanding both our cat and grooming sections, to meet demand. We have The Junction, Toronto opening this February, and expect to see a lot of learnings from that urban location as well.”

Image: Ren’s Pets

Wasyliw said Liberty Village also quickly became its top DoorDash store, demonstrating how Toronto pet parents want same-day delivery for convenience.

“The Beaches should be similar, as it’s an easy way for dog and cat owners to get their pet supplies, in particular bigger bags of pet food and heavy kitty litter, delivered right to their doorstep,” she said.

“There are already a lot of Ren’s Rewards members from The Beaches area that shop with us now in our GTA stores or on the website. We know that these pet parents want a great neighbourhood pet store where they can bring their pets, chat with knowledgeable staff for advice, weigh their pet, try samples, and get fitted for halters or collars. We can’t wait to show The Beaches that Ren’s is here for your Pet’s Best Life with the best food, treats, and toys you can get for happy, healthy pets.”

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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