E-tailer Inubar, Founded by Lot18 Alums, Debuts in Pet Wares Sector

7/10/12Follow @jpruth

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offering a lot of the same things you find at these high-end retailers just at competitive pricing.” For example, lounge beds from designer Jax and Bones cost up to $98 through Inubar, down from a retail price of $169.

Starting a business in the pet products sector is a challenge, Luck says, because of the dominant brick and mortar incumbents. “Wal-Mart is the largest in terms of market share,” she says. “Petco and PetSmart are both big players.” Grocery stores and other big-box retailers also carry broad arrays of pet products, though Luck believes Inubar’s focus on design gives it an advantage. “It’s easy to find beautiful home décor items through Fab, One Kings Lane, or Fancy,” she says. “We thought that was missing in the pet space.”

It’s one crowded space online, however. In addition to BarkBox, Inubar will be competing against the likes of Jersey City, NJ-based Wag.com, an Amazon-owned site which launched a year ago. And two-year-old PetFlow.com, based in New York, is quickly growing its customer base and recently became the most talked-about retailer on Facebook, according to PageData.

But Luck maintains the pet market is fragmented in terms of how suppliers reach consumers outside of brick-and-mortar retail distribution. She says many suppliers, such as Jax and Bones and New York’s Bocce’s Bakery, which makes homemade dog treats, want new ways to reach customers. “All these small suppliers, who are also about uniqueness and design, really don’t have a great distribution outlet right now,” she says.

Luck wants Inubar to be the platform that meets this need. The company works with more than 30 suppliers and is in talks with another 100, Luck says. Orders are handled through drop shipping arrangements with the suppliers and Inubar charges a $5 flat rate on all deliveries.

Luck and fellow co-founder Ran Tao were early employees of wine and gourmet food private club Lot18 in New York before founding Inubar. “[Tao] ran e-mail marketing and loyalty retention,” Luck says, “and I did business development and customer acquisition.”

They are putting their experiences at Lot18 to work at Inubar. For now Inubar has no plans to raise outside funds, but that may change as the business scales up, according to Luck. As dog owners, she and Tao chose to focus on canines initially, but they plan to add products for other pets in the future. Puff, the company’s resident Pomeranian, serves as their go-to product tester.

Luck says Inubar plans to introduce a section on the website for pet owners to submit information about their pets such as breed, age, favorite toys, and treats then use the data to create a recommendation engine to help other pet owners who are unsure what to buy. “We’re trying create a dog taste graph,” she says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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