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It’s true. While big box retailers may seem appetizing for wholesalers to sell their goods, the problem with larger stores is that it very easily becomes a competitive marketplace. They are difficult places to thrive with an abundance of product choices for shoppers — not to mention the higher costs associated with digital shelf space. Because of this, one company found success with selling to small, independent stores. 

Green Gruff, an early-stage pet supplement startup, has taken a unique retail distribution strategy: focusing on small, independent retailers rather than the traditional big box/ecommerce giants. After pivoting their focus, the company is at a distribution growth of 20 percent month-over-month, and is on track to earn $6 million in revenue in 2022, growing from 700 stores to 4,000 — 3,000 of which are stand-alone, independent shops. 

Strong Customer Relationships Help Increase Sales

Smaller retailers are known for the close relationships they build with their customers. By talking with shoppers and getting to know them, owners are then able to offer personalized experiences that big box stores cannot compete with. Green Gruff experienced firsthand how much of a bond independent store owners have with consumers, which greatly increased their sales. 

“I distinctly remember having a call with the owner of an independent retail store who did not do a lot of business in the pet category, but her own dog was using Green Gruff’s daily supplements and had started doing things they had not been able to do for years, like jumping into the car. We started brainstorming about what we could do to help make Green Gruff a success in her store so others could experience the same benefits with their dogs. We decided to move the products to the checkout area and ask customers if they had a dog. If they did, we would give them free samples of our product. It was in that moment that I realized it is the relationship that these independent stores have with their customers that would make the difference,” Jonathan Persofsky, co-founder and CEO of Green Gruff, said. 

Being Able to Share Your Story

Besides increasing sales, shoppers can also better understand the full benefits of Green Gruff products, as well as the story behind what the brand stands for as it relates to being an ethical business with a key focus on sustainability, according to Persofsky. Since the customer already has a great relationship with the owner, they are more likely to feel comfortable asking about specific products and companies. Green Gruff has so much they want to share with consumers that cannot possibly fit on the jar, so they rely on smaller stores and businesses to help share their message and core values. 

Secrets for Success

With a background as a successful restaurateur, Persofsky still holds true to certain strategies he learned along the way to help keep Green Gruff successful:

  • Customer service is always number 1.
    Mistakes can happen, but a good business knows the importance of making it right. You want a customer to come back because they have had a great experience — even if that experience is in a business rectifying a problem. 
  • A restaurant is only as good as your last meal.
    You need to always stay on top of your quality and always look for ways to improve — or else you will be out of touch. 
  • Taste.
    Just as a restaurant is only as good as the food they serve, dogs have to love our chews so they are excited to eat them, and when a pet owner finishes a bag, they know they have to go get another one. 
  • You have to wear every hat when you run a small business.
    So you need to find a vendor who can help by taking things off your plate and help to drive success — that is a real partner. This is why at Green Gruff, they try to help their small store partners both financially and physically: they develop events, and provide the resources and marketing materials needed. 
  • If a store is not successful, Green Gruff will not be either.
    Long term success is what truly matters, not the first sale.


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