NORWALK, Conn., June 26 /PRNewswire/ -- What PetsMart did for pet
retailing, Best Friends(R) plans to do for the kennel and grooming industry,
according to Charles A. Cocotas, chairman and CEO of Best Friends Pet Care,
"As the first major chain to penetrate the $2.5 billion fragmented kennel
and grooming market, our team of enthusiastic professionals fully expects to
redefine the business by providing unprecedented levels of quality care and
service," says Cocotas, former president and CEO of Boston Chicken.
Intent on leading the industry into the 21st century, Cocotas points out
that Best Friends has designed a state-of-the-art, environmentally-controlled
resort for pets that is odorless, sound-proof and flea-free. "We have
computerized the operations of our pet care centers, introduced an array of
lavish services for dogs and cats, elevated pet care, customer convenience and
employee training to new levels, and created a distinctive marketing strategy
focusing on brand differentiation. In essence, what we did for Boston chicken
we will do for Best Friends," says Cocotas.
With initial capitalization of $19 million from private investors, and $24
million in incremental funding recently arranged through private placement by
Merrill Lynch, Best Friends has catapulted to the forefront of the industry.
The company operates 16 Best Friends Pet Resorts & Salons in 15 markets coast
to coast and is negotiating the purchase of 70 additional properties.
Established in 1991, Best Friends reported systemwide revenues of $8
million in 1995 and anticipates a 25% increase in revenues, to $10 million, in
1996. According to Cocotas, boarding and grooming comprise the most
profitable segments of the $20 billion-a-year pet care industry, which is
growing 15% annually.
"The foundation of our business plan is the exceptionally high margins of
our existing centers," says Cocotas, pointing to gross margins in excess of
55% and operating margins of 40% or more. "Our plan will extend these high
margins to the bottom line by focusing on our highest margin core business
segments, boarding and grooming; acquiring only premium properties that
meet stringent demographic, financial and operating criteria and rapidly
expanding within each target region to maximize market share and preclude
Cocotas projects the opening of 18 additional Best Friends Pet Resorts and
Salons by the end of 1997. Future expansion plans call for the opening of 24
centers in 1998, 36 for 1999, and 50 each year thereafter. Initially the
company is targeting market areas in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states,
eventually progressing to the West Coast.
To facilitate expansion goals, Best Friends has recruited real estate
specialist Pat Chiacchia, who was instrumental in sourcing and negotiating 118
choice properties for Boston Chicken as vice president. Chiacchia, who has
been named vice president, real estate development, will focus on acquiring
and converting existing kennels and on purchasing property for the
construction of a newly-designed prototype.
The prototype, in addition to being environmentally controlled odorless
and flea-free, features spacious suites for pets, each with lambskin bedding
(washed daily) and private patio; multi-level kitty condos -- each
independently air controlled; modern grooming salon; in-door playroom that
converts to an obedience training facility; geriatric ward for older pets and
those that need a quieter, recuperative environment; multiple full-service
stations and bathing room with special recirculating hydro tubs. Best Friends
has contracted General Polymers Corp., to install Macroseptic(R) floors --
widely used in hospitals and research labs -- in the prototype, all future
centers, and in retrofit kennels. The biostatic floor system inhibits
microbial growth, controls odors, and ensures a safe, hygienic environment for
Best Friends specially-trained staff of pet care experts provides a wide
range of services, including boarding; grooming; dog obedience training;
playtime (walking, running, petting and/or cuddling sessions); top-quality,
nutritionally-balanced cuisine; careful monitoring of eating, play, and
elimination habits; twice-daily cleaning of quarters with hospital-grade
disinfectant; custom care and feeding programs, day care and go-home fresh
"With 50% of American households owning one or more of the estimated 115
million dogs and cats in the U.S.(l), 25% of whom actively use boarding
kennels and grooming services," says Cocotas, "we have the market opportunity
as well as the management expertise and vision to lead this exceptional
(1) Center for Information Management, American Veterinary Medical
SOURCE Best Friends Pet Care, Inc.