February 26, 2016

Interview with Gordie Spater – Kurgo

Pet Insight caught up with Gordie Spater to talk about how Spater and his brother entered the pet industry and how Kurgo’s nationwide presence, innovative products and collaborative partnerships with retailers help the company stand apart from other companies.


PI: What influenced you to work in the pet industry?

GS: Our entry into the pet industry really started with my brother who is the designer of all of our products. He had a dog, named Zelda, who liked to try to sit in the front seat of the car and my brother, being an industrial designer, came up with some ideas using the top of a Rubbermaid container and some bungee cords and came up with our backseat barrier. It was our first product into the pet industry. From there we saw a lot of opportunity to provide solutions for people who are out traveling with their dogs.


PI: What prompted you and your brother to found Kurgo?

GS: It was really that product, the backseat barrier, and the sales of that product and the opportunity that caused us to build the rest of the company from there. We really developed that one product and developed products after that.


PI: How does Kurgo differentiate from competitors?

GS: We offer a lifetime warranty on all of our products, and I think the other piece of that is innovation that draws the company. When we come up with a new idea, we continue and we add innovation to every single product that we have. Additionally, we focus a lot on how does it look on the shelf so that consumers want to pull it off and building brand recognition to get consumers to recognize the brand.


PI: Who do you view as Kurgo’s primary competition?

GS: There are a number of people making pet travel products. I would say they’re making the array of products that we’re making. That’s kind of what provided the opportunity to create a category around travel and outdoor products. Some people make a few items here and there but no one is really is really offering the array that we are offering.


PI: How does the company’s structure provide advantages over competitors?

GS: We’re always developing new products that give retailers something new to offer customers when they come into the store, which helps to get people into more of a shopping mood. The other piece is we focus a lot on service and providing opportunities for retailers to increase the sell through at their stores. We’ll work with them on marketing programs and those types of things. At Kurgo, we  create products that consumers really want – not just what they need, which are important, but things they need and they want so they walk out excited with their purchases.


PI: Does Kurgo have a stronger presence in some regions more so than other regions? How is Kurgo addressing this?

GS: I would say we have a pretty nationwide presence. We have a warehouse based right outside of Chicago, so we can ship and customers will receive it within a few days of their order.


PI: What are some of the biggest challenges facing the overall pet industry?

GS: There are probably two areas of challenge that we need to be focused on. One is making sure that people have access to pets so they can get the pet they want to purchase. That’s one area of concern. And the second is to include certain demographic groups to broaden the demand group of pet owners.


PI: Where do you see the pet travel category heading within the next five years?

GS: If people continue humanizing dogs and travelling with them more, there’s a lot more opportunity to meet their needs when they’re out on the road to avoid stress and to help make the trip as easy as possible.


PI: How does Kurgo work with retailers?

GS: We work with them to design programs. We also do some discovery to really understand who their customers are and make sure we’re providing the right set of products to both customers, and then designing programs that will be appealing to their customers to help their sell through. It’s a pretty collaborative effort.


PI: Which types of retailers does Kurgo prefer to work with?

GS: I would say anyone who does a good job of connecting with their customers. It’s a relatively new category and fast-growing category so some customers do need explanations of what the products are. Anyone who is able to work with those customers to explain the products is going to do the best at selling products.


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