Over 62-percent of American households owned a pet as of 2009 and Americans spent over $10 billion for pet supplies alone in 2009 according to the 2009-10 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association. This means opportunity exists for individuals who want to get in the pet supply business. Setting up an online store selling pet supplies gives you a great chance to target consumers who purchase online, but competition may be fierce with big-box retailers - such as PetSmart and WalMart - that already sell these products on the Internet.
Decide on the type of online pet supply business you want to start. Think about whether you want to sell general pet supplies for many kinds of animals or whether you want to specialize your business towards a certain kind of pet (e.g., selling only cat, dog or reptile supplies). Specializing your pet supply business may decrease the amount of online competition you face. Also, decide on the kinds of pet supplies you want to sell online, such as pet carriers and handbags, pet ID tags, or animal clothing and toys.
Research your competition. Visit websites of big-box retailers that sell pet supplies online, such as PetSmart, PETCO and Complete PetMart. Go to smaller, specialized online store websites like Glamour Dog, Little Pampered Pets and Simply Cat Supplies. Take note of the quality of products you see as well as the general price ranges of retail products that you want to sell in your own online pet supply business.
Complete the legal requirements for setting up your business. Think of a name for your online pet supply company. Register this name as well as your business' structure (i.e., sole proprietorship, limited liability company) with your state. Acquire any business permits or licenses, if needed, such as a tax permit that may be required to charge sales tax to customers.
Find manufacturers and suppliers of pet supplies and products. Go to business supplier directory websites like ThomasNet, TradeKey and Kellysearch. Type in the name of the pet supplies you're looking for in the search box provided. For example, type in "pet food" to find suppliers for pet food and "dog" to find suppliers and manufacturers of dog products. Find the website and/or contact information for each supplier. Contact the manufacturer and inquire about special pricing for retailers.
Place orders for the pet supplies and products you want to sell. Wait for the products to ship and find a place to store them once they arrive.
Purchase a domain and web hosting service for your business. Get your domain name from the same place you purchase hosting. Make your domain either the same name of your pet supply company or think of a short, catchy domain name that's easy for people to remember. Expect to pay around $10 per year for your domain name and anywhere from $15 to $50 per month for your web hosting, depending on the specific hosting package you order.
Set up your pet supply website. Choose a shopping cart for your website - such as Volusion, BigCommerce or osCommerce - so that you can display products easily, integrate shipping and accept major credit cards on your site. Hire a professional web designer to install your shopping cart and make any design changes that you want done. Make sure to use attractive photos and accurate descriptions of the pet supplies and products you're selling.
Begin marketing your online business. Pay for banner advertisements on active message boards and forums - such as Cat Channel, DogForums.com and PetPeoplesPlace.com - to gain the attention of pet owners. Set up pay-per-click advertisement campaigns and bid on keywords related to the pet supply products you sell so that your ad shows up in search engines when people search.
- dog bones image by Janet Wall from Fotolia.com