Bethowen is one of the biggest pet retail chains in Russia. PETS International arranged for its Russian agent Yulia Dolzhenkova to interview George Chkareuli, the new CEO, about his vision and ambitions for the company.
George Chkareuli is not a newcomer to Bethowen, having served as Deputy General Director for Finance since 2010. In his new position as CEO, he will be leading the group during its next stage of development.
During his MBA studies in the US, George developed a strong belief in private entrepreneurship and private capital. That was the starting point for becoming senior partner at the private equity fund Prometheus Capital Partners, which was founded by Levan Vasadze, designated speaker at the GlobalPETS Forum 2020.
Bethowen currently has 110 stores: about 100 in the Moscow area and 10+ stores in St. Petersburg and other urban centres. All shops have OTC veterinarian drugstores. Bethowen successfully sells eighteen private label brands.
How it all started
In 2010, Bethowen and Zooboom retail, with 42 stores, merged to become Bethowen Group. Prometheus Capital Partners became the majority shareholder of the new enterprise. Now, ten years later, Bethowen is a sustainable speciality retailer with a strong brand equity that leads the Russian market.
The company is currently facing a number of new challenges, such as the need to improve effectiveness and increase the speed of development and innovation.
“Our leading position has been confirmed by the Nielsen Brand Equity Index. For 8 years they have worked with us, and today our ‘Retail Brand Equity Index’ is >3. Only 5% of world retailers have such a significant indicator,” says George.
The years to come
Vital for further success is to understand today’s pet owner better. The younger generation wants faster and cheaper delivery by offline and online channels. This requires a customer-centric approach based on CRM, as well as a change in company culture and working methods. “We have to treat pet owners as pet parents. It means that their shopping experience in all our channels should be based on the positive emotions of care and family happiness. All of this needs to be reflected much more in store design and marketing communication, integrating offline and online,” George explains. “It also means that we have to extend our role as a traditional retailer into an integrated service provider for pet parents. Our shareholders formulate our mission as: ‘Happy family’. We are convinced that a happy family is one with a pet – that is one of our marketing messages.”
“To make all this work, my first key task is to motivate Bethowen’s associates – over 1,300 people – to share their ideas, fine-tune and implement these concepts, and to make sure they enjoy doing their jobs. We are also developing partnerships with other industry players and are inviting them to exchange ideas with us. I am not only talking about pet product suppliers, but also about veterinary clinics and other service providers. We believe it should be a long term, fruitful cooperation.”
Smart and selective growth
“This strategic move will also help to grow the company further. However, it has to be smart and selective growth. Growth based on where today’s demand is. Part of this growth will, of course, come from the internet. A state-of-the-art omni-channel approach is essential. Our online sales grow 50% every year.”
George believes that the grocery sector is not really a direct competitor. For a lot of pet owners, grocery stores are where they get to know branded pet food and other pet care products. During this process, the consumer further learns about the added value of pet speciality. Of course, a lot of other external elements are part of the game, such as the purchasing power of consumers. But the innovative strength of pet retail and its ability to act as an integrated service provider, based on omni-channel with a customer-centric approach, is the key success factor that Bethowen is focussing on.