Concord Pet to open new Wilmington distribution warehouse
WILMINGTON — Concord Pet Foods & Supplies plans to turn a former Southbridge auto parts shop into a storage and distribution center for its growing brand of pet food and other wares by October.
Concord Pet, headquartered in Brandywine Hundred, bought the 23,000-square-foot building for $1.12 million in late July. The property, located at 3 James Court in Wilmington, previously housed Chesapeake Rim and Wheel – now CRW Parts Inc. – a distributor of replacement wheels, rims and brakes.
Concord Pet representatives said that site is still in the early stages of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s investigation for possible remediation.
Once open, Concord Pet would consolidate pet food — including its own signature brand Elm Pet Foods — in the warehouse instead of spreading it out across its 31 locations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Elm is Concord Pet’s answer to premium brands that have become so popular among pet owners in recent years.
“Right now, we have drivers going to three different stores to get stocked up before they head out. This is going to make it possible to have it all under one roof,” Concord Pet President and CEO Larry Mutschler told Delaware Business Times. “The idea is also that it would potentially get more of our own brand out there.”
In 2016, Concord Pet reached an agreement with Sunshine Mills, a national pet food manufacturer to add the Elm formula to its lineup at its production plant in Tupelo, Miss. The first bag was sold in Delaware in June 2016.
Elm has since expanded to canned dog and cat food, treats and animal part products like bully sticks and chicken tenders. It’s also in independent pet stores outside the Concord Pet chain in New York and Connecticut.
“Those stores all reached out to us, so it’s spreading by word of mouth,” Concord Pet Marketing Director Dan Sultzbach said. “Customers can be so loyal to a typical brand that it can be hard for a new one to break in, so that’s a great sign.”
When Concord Pet first started in 1978, Mutschler sold Purina and one other brand of pet food. But when the market grew to premium brands, independent stores were the first to stock it on the shelves before graduating to big box stores.
“In at least the last five years, I’ve seen a shift where the premium brands lean more to the big box stores. The challenge there is that they buy in bulk and can sell it to a lower price,” Mutschler said. “It’s becoming more important to develop your own in-store brand.”
For example, Concord Pet could see between a 40% and 50% profit margin selling a bag of its Elm dog food compared to a 30% profit from a bag of Blue Buffalo, Mutschler explained.
The new warehouse will need minor renovations for shelving, but nothing significant. Once open, Mutschler said Elm and other pet food and treat brands would be moved out of storage in stores and into the warehouse. Two additional delivery personnel would be hired from the start, but there is potential for more employment opportunities down the line.
By Katie Tabeling