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, Inc. "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 competitive response." 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 pets. 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 baths. "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 industry." (1) Center for Information Management, American Veterinary Medical Association.
SOURCE Best Friends Pet Care, Inc.