And now a word about "SUPERSTORES" vs. "INDEPENDENTS"

I like a particular locally brewed ale. In fact, my favorite ale, Victory Hopdevil, is masterfully and lovingly concocted just down the hill from my place. I'm not alone in my passion for this beverage. I've met more than one fellow diner who's selected a locally owned & operated restaurant or pub because they offer "the Devil" among their choices on tap. On many occasions, dinner's taken a back seat to the beverage.

Now, I could take my once weekly "dinner out" dollar to a chain like Applebees, Chilis, Olive Garden,...or you fill in the rest of the list. But when I plant my bum on the barstool in one of these nationwide chain restaurants, I know that the offerings on tap will be the same, no matter which of them I choose, or which location I select. And Victory Hopdevil will be missing.

I use this as an illustration of why you might want to seek out an "independently owned & operated" pet supply store or chain, as opposed to Petco, Petsmart, Pet Valu, Pet Supplies Plus, Petland Discounts, or Pet Supermarket. I single out these chains as representing over 2000 stores throughout the US & Canada. And the same idea applies to them as to my favorite brew. If you're looking for something unique in a pet product, you're not likely to find it in a huge cookie-cutter chain. They all go to the same suppliers, for the most part. In fact, the same huge, national pet supply distributor serves every last one of them here in the US.

I've been in this business long enough to witness the rise of the pet superstore, and the fall of many great independent stores. It was, I believe, another illustration of the pernicious deregulation and consolidation of many areas of our economy since the Reagan years. I can't say that this trend is reversing with the massive corrections occurring throughout the business world, but I do see some hope that we may find more independents showing up on the scene, and strong locally owned stores remaining strong and perhaps prospering. I'm a catman, and not an economist, but as an OPTIMIST, I look toward the future of the pet industry with great anticipation of a more diverse marketplace.