Mondou doesn’t just talk the talk about embracing a human approach to animals. Enter the pet-product distributor’s headquarters in Anjou, a borough of Montreal, and you’ll likely be greeted by Marcel, an employee’s cat. “I guess it’s rare to come into an office reception and find a cat at the desk, but it’s part of our culture,” says general manager Martin Deschênes. “We know all of our employees’ pets’ names. We look after each other’s dogs when someone has a meeting. It’s all part of making work fun.”
Celebrating 82 years in business this year, the Quebec-based family-run company didn’t start out catering to family pets; it was a source of grain and hay for draft animals and livestock. In 1999, Mondou opened its own distribution centre and, two years later, added 18 new stores. Today, the company boasts 65 stores province-wide, with 3,000 store-level bar codes—ranging from food to toys and grooming products—and 5,000 more available through its website. Expanding to Ontario is always on the minds of decision-makers, but first, says Deschênes, the main objective is to be “everywhere” in Quebec.
Deschênes, also CEO of Mondou’s parent company, Groupe Legault, was an unexpected hire to lead a pet company—at least, on paper. He spent 14 years at L’Oréal, then two as CFO/COO of BCBG Max Azria Canada before joining Mondou in 2013. But the consumer and sales tactics are deceptively similar, he says. “At L’Oréal it was a portfolio of mostly women, and Mondou’s customers are 70 per cent women; the other 30 per cent, we joke, are there because their wives asked them to pick up dog food.”
Mondou’s integrated approach to its business was similar to Deschênes’ experience as well, managing its own distribution—from “picking and packing to delivery.” What appealed most to Deschênes is that all stores are corporately owned, allowing the company to fully control its message of holistic animal health and happiness. Franchising was never a serious option.
“What we’re proposing is a 360-degree experience,” he says. “Yes, we have stores, but we’ve also expanded our real estate holdings and manage our own warehouse, trucks and drivers. We fill our e-commerce orders ourselves. I can’t think of many retail companies that can say that.” Next up? A 120,000-sq.-foot plant in Drummondville, Que., which will allow Mondou to produce its own dry pet food—a brand called The Diet—in partnership with Groupe Inovo, a family poultry business.
To stay at the forefront of the pet-care industry, Mondou aims to renovate up to five of its locations each year, in some cases taking the footprint from 3,000 to 5,500 square feet. These new concept spaces, called “Mondou de Quartier,” are meant to serve as neighbourhood destinations, inviting community engagement with a free dog-wash facility and a “hug room” for events, from yoga with dogs to classes where kids can bake “cookies” for their pets.
Two locations in Anjou and Saint-Jérôme now feature an Adoption Zone for cats in partnership with the Society for the Protection of Animals Canada and SPCA Montreal. The bright, two-storey “condo” allows felines to roam freely and interact with would-be owners under the supervision of trained staff. “Our mandate is to find the right homes for these cats,” says Deschênes. “But most importantly, we’re not selling animals. We want to facilitate adoptions, so the transaction is between customers and the animal protection agencies.”
None of the innovation would be possible, Deschênes maintains, without a deep reverence for Mondou’s six corporate values: competency, team spirit, customer satisfaction, integrity, passion and fun. A year-end gala for the company’s approximately 750 employees recognizes those values with trophies and incentives for winning staff teams.
“People vote for their peers,” says Deschênes. “That way, we allow the culture to trickle down. And then the customers in the stores feel it, too. We can name our employees’ pets, and they can name the customers’ pets—we all have the same goal.”