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Q&A with James Edwards of Pet Circle

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with Internet Retailing’s 2017 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. See our previous Q&As here.

This week, editor Heather McIlvaine interviews James Edwards, co-founder of online pet supplies business, Pet Circle, which recently got an injection of venture capital funding.

Short on time? Here are three key takeaways from the interview:

  • Edwards worked in tech before getting into e-commerce.
  • Pet Circle recently hired its fifth veterinarian to given advice over email.
  • The retailer is currently working on expanding its range and improving delivery times.

Heather McIlvaine: You have a background in tech, but not necessarily e-commerce. Tell us a bit about your background and how you got your start in e-commerce?

James Edwards: E-commerce has its own particular flavour but I like to think of Pet Circle as a retailer that happens to be online. So whilst we need to think about servers and logistics fundamentally our business’ goal is the same as your corner pet shop – providing services and products that customers value because they make being a pet parent easier and better. I’m lucky enough to have a background that spans retail, technology, and mathematics so I guess it was inevitable that I ended up in e-commerce! I got started in e-commerce with Pet Circle when I met Mike Frizell, my co-founder, at a startup space called VibeWire. He had such a clear and compelling vision of what Pet Circle could be that I knew we had to team up.

HM: Do you think you approach e-commerce differently because of your background? If so, what are some examples of the unique perspectives or insights you bring to the role?

JE: With my technical and operational background I’ve been able to help make Pet Circle strong in these areas and to assist the team in making sure that our core offering – price, delivery, and service – is effective and scaleable. But, ironically, the key insight that my background brings is a confidence to understand the limitations of technology and not be overawed by it. We believe here that customer experience is #1 and technology is only useful to the extent that it makes CX better.

HM: Can you give a snapshot of Pet Circle today, in terms of customers, sales, online footprint, offline footprint?

JE: We are pureplay e-commerce and deliver to pet parents all over the country. The distribution of customers is pretty much the distribution of pets in Australia! We’ve worked hard at driving a high quality service so we have high rates of customer retention and hence sales are constantly growing fast — we send many thousands of orders out every week.

HM: Pet Circle recently got an investment from Air Tree Ventures and Fransisco Partners. What will the capital be used for?

JE: The capital investment will be used to expand both product range and warehouse size as well as to grow the team so that we can better focus on customers. For instance, we recently hired our fifth vet in order to be able to give our customers great advice and support in selecting the products that best match their pets’ needs – whether via email, product descriptions, or video content. We truly want our customers to be so happy shopping with us that they see no need to look elsewhere.

HM: What can we expect to see from Pet Circle in the next 12 months?

JE: One of the most exciting things is range expansion. Early on we were purely dog products, then we expanded into cat products. We are increasing and improving our ranges for fish and birds and other speciality species in 2018. Another project that I am very committed to is improving delivery times for customers in Perth and regional areas. There will also be a lot of work on the website to make Pet Circle much more of an enjoyable place to just browse for pet information and products.

HM: Pet Circle is all about selling pet food and supplies online, so who better than you to answer the age-old question: cats or dogs?

JE: We have a lot of animal lovers in the office here and if I took a poll we’d get answers including dog, cat, bird, rabbit, horse, and fish! I’ve been a happy owner of dogs, cats, birds, fish, and a pair of axolotls in the past so I can’t give a straight answer, but my daughter tells me that dogs are the best 🙂

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