Coastal Pet Products Inc. is a bona fide living legend. Its founder, Jim Stout, transformed the pet products industry when his nylon webbing leashes and collars overtook traditional leather as the standard, and again when his Kanine curved buckle did the same. But the market that Coastal Pet knew decades ago and conquered via the muscle of its product innovation has changed, disrupted by technology and the internet.
Facing this new market reality is Jim’s daughter, Kim Stout, who now sits in the president’s chair. She looks out over the retail landscape not with the eyes of an engineer, like her father, but from the perspective of salesperson and a marketer.
“Retail is definitely under pressure,” Kim Stout says. “The consumer is driving the buying decision.”
The old days, when manufacturers, importers and large retailers were responsible for buying decisions — they make/stock it, consumers choose/buy it from those curated selections — are all but over.
“With omni-channel, consumers have so much choice. It’s really lowered the barrier to entry. And with the technology, it just happens so quickly,” she says.
To keep pace, Coastal has to adapt. Stout is setting a retail strategy aimed not only at ensuring Coastal’s products are available wherever ever-more-demanding consumers shop, but increasingly at making sure that consumers are aware of the Coastal name and what it represents.
Partners in innovation
Coastal’s Alliance facility is a testament to its industry-shifting innovation. The company grew out of the basement of a pet shop beginning in 1968 and moved into its first facility in 1974. From 10 employees and 50 products, Coastal has grown to employ nearly 500 and send to market more than 7,500 SKUs from its 376,500-square-foot manufacturing and distribution facility next to a man-made lake on a former cornfield.
But not everything Coastal does originates from under its 8.6-acre roof.