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Karlin
5th January 2008, 01:21 PM
This ran in the Financial Times -- interesting!


A dogged attempt to shake up the selling of pills for pets
By Jonathan Moules

Published: January 4 2008 16:13 | Last updated: January 4 2008 16:13

A dog is not just for Christmas. Neither, Ricky Thomas has shown, is an animal business.

The 28-year-old former City IT executive set up Petmeds, an online pet medicine retailer, 18 months ago after a particularly painful vet’s bill for Monty, his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

The sale of animal products is in many ways an ideal market for the disruptive effects of a low-cost dotcom operation. Vet practices tend to add high margins to the drugs they sell to cross-subsidise the cost of animal examinations. However, since the law changed in October 2005, there has been nothing to stop animal owners taking their prescriptions to another business acting as a dispensary.

Thomas, who had spent eight years managing IT systems at companies such as Icap, the brokerage, had already registered his Petmeds.co.uk domain name before the UK law changed, having seen e-commerce sites upset the pet medicine market in the US.

He also had the benefit of having just paid off his mortgage with bonuses from his salaried job, and had an additional £80,000 to invest in his business idea.

He found a couple of vets willing to come in with him for a 5 per cent stake in the venture, put his money into the business as a loan and was ready to trade.

The problem is that there was nothing to stop other people doing the same thing, and in spite of Petmeds offering discounts of 60 per cent on vet prices, the company was initially struggling to attract customers.

“It was almost at a point where I had to fold the business,” Thomas recalls, adding that in his first five months he barely made £3,000.

It was when Thomas realised that he had to stop being like his competitors that the start-up’s fortunes changed, he claims.

A key strategic move was to make Petmeds the sole supplier to the UK’s various animal charities.

The business could have gone for similar deals with breeders, but this is a much harder network to tap without the contacts, according to Thomas.

Connecting with charities has also brought Petmeds into contact with insurance companies, a potentially lucrative source of business, although Thomas is still at an early stage in negotiating to supply these organisations.

Thomas has made use of web-based affiliates too, who receive a fee from revenue earned after recommending his service to others.

Technology is clearly not a problem for a man who used to manage multimillion pound budgets for cutting- edge City IT systems.

He admits that he probably overspecified the Petmeds website when he started, but claims that this has since proved an advantage as it has enabled the business to grow fast without the need for additional spending on new technology.

Sales have taken off. Turnover last year was about £2.5m and is expected to rise to £4m in 2008.

Petmeds holds little stock because it can get an overnight delivery of most items from the drug manufacturers, who boast highly efficient supply chains.

But Thomas has also learnt to buy the right stuff in small quantities ahead of time. When he started trading he spent £3,000 on some of the best-selling items from vet practices, thinking that his discounting policy would bring strong demand for these products. However, he sold hardly any.

“I wondered if I had misunderstood the market,” Thomas says. In fact, he realised it was because pet owners bought differently online, preferring to buy the items that were expensive to buy elsewhere.

Physical location is another important factor for efficient supply, Thomas notes.

At the beginning of 2007 he moved Petmeds to a Greenwich business park next door to a large Royal Mail depot.

It might not be the cheapest address, but it enables the company to shift stock fast and enables Petmeds to offer next-day delivery for orders placed as late as 7pm.

The company’s biggest problems now come from real-world issues, such as the Royal Mail postal strike last year, when Petmeds lost £20,000 from just seven days of industrial action.

Thomas says he has considered making use of the competition in postal services and switching to an alternative carrier, but has so far been unable to find another that guarantees overnight delivery.

SStill, he has found success in turning the inevitable red tape involved in selling pet drugs into some sort of competitive advantage.

When he started Petmeds, Thomas would receive almost daily calls from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, following up on complaints issued by vet practices, concerned about his service.

Instead of railing against these calls, Thomas made a point of answering in person and seeking to solve the problem from his PC while they chatted on the phone.

“I always took the time to talk to them,” he says, adding that he could often rectify the problem as they spoke by adjusting a piece of wording on the website.

As a result, the VMD now often calls Thomas even when there aren’t any problems to update him on new regulations as they come into force.

“I think they really trust us because we consult with them more than they thought we would,” Thomas says.

There is no one on the phone when I drop by. In fact, the atmosphere is more like a library than a fast- growing start-up.

Silence is not a concern, but a testament to the level of customer satisfaction, Thomas claims. No phone calls means happy shoppers because they are doing everything online.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 200

Link: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/62ad9502-badd-11dc-9fbc-0000779fd2ac.html?nclick_check=1

Claire
6th January 2008, 05:14 PM
I have used them for Frontline, Ozzy's Frusemide (have to fax off letter from Vets confirming that his is on them and requires so many months) and some dental stuff - all cheaper then getting them from the vets.

Nicki
6th January 2008, 05:39 PM
This is very interesting - I was advised only to use companies registered with The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) - the professional and regulatory body for pharmacists in England, Scotland and Wales

You can check here

http://www.rpsgb.org.uk/

PetMeds are NOT registered as far as I can see...

Companies which are not registered can just be one vet doing this from a spare room...

From this article PetMeds appears to be a genuine company though.

This is a company who are registered and have been very helpful in the past - tehy have been gonig for over 2 years now.

http://www.bestpetpharmacy.co.uk/index.asp

Barbara Nixon
7th January 2008, 06:50 PM
I've found Petmeds very good and saved a lot on Teddy's Atopica. Delivery is free and next day, subject to a minimum spend and prices are 5% less than any you can quote.

*Pauline*
7th January 2008, 08:56 PM
I assume this is the same thing as VetMedics who don't charge postage if you get a wormer and a wormer can be just £4. My vet told me I get Frontline cheaper than he can!

I get Frontline from them, toothpaste and wormer. So cheap.:D


http://www.vet-medic.com/

Barbara Nixon
8th January 2008, 01:31 PM
It is very similar, Pauline, but if you quote the Vet-medics price, Petmeds will knock off an extra 5%, so will be cheaper. I have used Vet-medics several times, but , because of the 5% Petmeds is cheaper and they are just as efficient.

*Pauline*
8th January 2008, 06:37 PM
Thanks Barbara, I'll call them next time :D

Barbara Nixon
8th January 2008, 09:48 PM
I always do order by (free)phone, as you are sure that they have supplies and make sure the discount is correctly calculated. If you use them, be sure to have the web details for the company who's price they have to beat, handy, as they check while you are on the phone to them.

amia
17th January 2008, 04:09 PM
I'm thinking of getting our ninas dry eye medication from petmeds or bestpetpharmacy.its called optimmune and costs £40 a month at our vets!i can get it for £21-£24 on one of theses sites!of course you need a prescription but they have to give you a prescription free of charge by law.

i just think its a disgrace how much they over charge you

Barbara Nixon
17th January 2008, 07:27 PM
Find the lowest online price (it's worth trying all sites, as not all come up in comparison lists), then ring Petmeds with the details handy, to get %% off any price lower than thier own. I saved over £6 on Teddy's Atopica , at the weekend , and that was only on Petmeds site, which, in turn, is cheaper than the vets. The vet quoted me over £20 for a 15 capsule pack, but I pay £25.53 for two packs.

Amia, it looks like, as in Teddy's case, the site to quote a lowest price from is Vetuk, giving a final price of £20.78

amia
17th January 2008, 08:40 PM
so i just phone petmeds and say vetuk do optimmune for £20.78 and i might get more off?!!?ill do that!I'm going to my vets tomorrow to see if i can get a prescription for nina. hopefully i can make a genuine saving.thanks for the advise by the way!!

simonrickell
17th January 2008, 09:48 PM
This looks great - obviously to get the best price you have to shop around first, then go to Petmeds to get them to cut 5% off the price you find.
It is nice to see that they accept scans - emailed.

Fortekor at petmeds 5mg is 78p/tablet at vetuk it it 68p(best I could find a couple of days ago) (Vetuk require the prescription posting - but did get it back within 48 hours- excellent)

We also get Vetmedin best we found is 31.45 for 100 x 2.5mg at viovet

Best by far for Frusemide is 2p/ 20mg tablet at drugs4pets.
The first time we got a prescription for this was for 40 tablets- cost us just 80p no p&p, and no minimum spend!!!

It would be great if everyone could keep this thread up to date with the best prices they have found.

Claire
17th January 2008, 09:54 PM
Don't forget to print off your order the insurance companies except those for claims back.

Barbara Nixon
18th January 2008, 07:11 PM
You will need the web address for the company you want Petmeds to beat handy. I always order by phone to be sure they get the price right (they check while you are on the line) and don't assume the discount will automatically be given; you have to ask.

Barbara Nixon
18th January 2008, 07:14 PM
Best Atopica price is £13.44 (!5 x 25mg) at Vetuk.

merlinsmum
18th January 2008, 08:21 PM
i just think its a disgrace how much they over charge you

Amia, they justify the higher prices because they only buy in small quantities whereas the websites can buy in bulk and this is where they get the savings which they can pass on to us.

Having spent the last two days actually at ved medic buying in bul certainly offers the customer a much lower price. The problem is that some vets can be quite obtuse about prescriptions and so only prescribe small amounts, so you end up having to purchase from them because you can only buy what your vet prescibes.

amia
18th January 2008, 09:31 PM
Amia, they justify the higher prices because they only buy in small quantities whereas the websites can buy in bulk and this is where they get the savings which they can pass on to us.

Having spent the last two days actually at ved medic buying in bul certainly offers the customer a much lower price. The problem is that some vets can be quite obtuse about prescriptions and so only prescribe small amounts, so you end up having to purchase from them because you can only buy what your vet prescibes.

really!it does annoy me to be honest!i went to my vet today to get ninas prescription and they said there would be a small charge of £3 for the paper work.im confused because i read that it was illegal to charge anything but there you go.

merlinsmum
19th January 2008, 10:38 AM
really!it does annoy me to be honest!i went to my vet today to get ninas prescription and they said there would be a small charge of £3 for the paper work.im confused because i read that it was illegal to charge anything but there you go.

I thought too that there should be no charge, I'm not sure though perhaps someone else can help out???

Barbara Nixon
19th January 2008, 04:46 PM
My vet doesn't charge, but he does chrage a dispensing fee on drugs bought at the surgery (an absolute rip-off when it only involves picking up a package from a shelf-ie no counting out). Being billed for paperwork was discussed on Dogpages, as some members said thier vets did this.

Claire
19th January 2008, 06:18 PM
I need to check but your vet has to give you free prescriptions - let me have a look and report back.

Claire
19th January 2008, 06:21 PM
States that " Your vet must legally write you a prescription for free so long as your animal requires the medications."

simonrickell
19th January 2008, 07:04 PM
Definetly no charge for a prescription - first time I caught my vet out (didn't know the new rules) I checked with the royal vet college who said that if I did get charged then I should report it to them.

DEFINELTY CHARGING FOR A PRESCRIPTION IS BREAKING THE LAW.

Also, they should not get the money back in any other way - i.e. they should be treating you the same way whether or not you get the meds through them - though I don't know how you could prove this. Sometimes they make us go in for a check before we can get a repeat prescription.- though they might have done this anyway.

Barbara Nixon
19th January 2008, 07:25 PM
I believe you have to have a check every three months if an animal is on medication.