Interview with Smack Bang Store

If you don't live in Wellington, or live under a rock within Wellington you may not know what Smack Bang is! This store has recently opened up within Wellington City, Tory Street to be exact and it is shaking up the way you view a pet store. Amelia has made the perfect store which is a mix of amazing, top quality pet products and beautiful homewares that makes you wish you had a Pinterest worthy house. Every time I step inside the store I want to spend thousands and re-do my house into a marble, pink and white theme. If homewares aren't your style though, the pet products are wonderful, and are an eclectic mix of products from throughout the world and locally. I got the chance to speak with Amelia and ask her some of the business questions I have always wondered.


What made you originally start SmackBang?
Having always been interested in interior design I had been wanting to open a homewares store for a while. I’ve been in hospitality for the last 15 years and wasn’t enjoying it anymore. Through a series of events over the last few years (both good and bad) we were finally in a place where we could actually make it happen so we jumped at it! The pet side of things came second - I was complaining about how ugly everything was and why everything had to be covered in paw prints - your dog doesn’t care what it looks like, we’re the ones that have to stare at it! People put so much time, effort and money into making their homes look the way they want them to, why should the stuff for your pets be any different? You should be proud of your stuff, not hide things out of view! It was a lightbulb moment we both had at the same time and couldn’t figure out why no-one else was doing it.


Why did you chose to have a physical and online store instead of just an online store as is common currently?
Despite scaremongering that bricks-and-mortar retail is dead, I did a LOT of research and came to the conclusion that no, it’s not - retailers just need to adapt to being an omni-channel store. There’s two main reasons I decided on opening a physical location, 1. We provide an experience in-store that couldn’t be matched online. A lot of the products we stock haven’t been seen in New Zealand before and love seeing people’s faces light up when they enter the shop. We’ve placed an emphasis on design in the shop that wouldn’t be able to be portrayed as well if it was just online. Allowing (read: encouraging!) people to bring their doggos into the shop adds to that in-store experience. 2, Myself personally, I wouldn’t buy anything more than $150 online unless I had seen it for myself first. So much can differ to what you see online - colour, material, quality, size - and I wanted people to be able to see the products first hand. And for the same reason people take their kids shopping - you need to see if what you’re going to buy will actually fit your dog!
(Morgan popping in to say she is completely right and has made a beautiful store that makes you feel like you are having an experience by visiting it. It is one of the few stores where I could browse for hours and enjoy every second of it.)

How have you found the reaction to your store has been?
It varies widely from amazement and excitement, to people complaining about the prices/can’t believe people spend that on their pets, but mostly positive! Wellingtonians are a super supportive bunch and love getting behind a local business. The like-minded people far outweigh the negative ones.

What has been the hardest part of starting Smackbang?
Getting a business off the ground in New Zealand isn’t easy, and at times feels like the system is working against us. Patience and perseverance is key. I had a hard time convincing people that I was worth investing in, and without the backing of my partner it would never have happened. I’m very lucky!


If you could change one thing that you done at the beginning, what would you change?
That’s a tough one. Everything that’s happened up until this point has resulted in what we are, so there’s no one thing I would change as such. Little things like shelving could’ve been altered, a longer counter etc, but there’s nothing major that I can’t change anyway! Mistakes are all part of the process - without them I wouldn’t be learning anything!

What has been your greatest accomplishment with Smackbang?
Getting open! From starting the company to opening the doors was 9 months and at a few points didn’t feel like it was going to happen. We couldn’t even view the space for months as it was cordoned off while the Reading’s carpark was being demolished from the earthquake. Everything else rested with the bank - no loan, no business - and that was an extremely frustrating process.

Have you always worked, or wanted to work in the pet space?
This is my first stint at an animal-focused career (loving it!). I’ve always worked in customer service so a lot of those skills transfer very easily into retail. I wanted to set something up for myself where I could work going something I love - dogs and shopping! I’m in this for the long haul so having something I was passionate about was key - life’s too short to be doing something you don’t like!


What is your favourite thing about working in the pet space?
I get to pat dogs all day! We love listening to people talk about their pets and seeing the love they have for them - it restores a bit of faith in humanity!

Where do you see yourself and your business in the next five years?
Our long term plan for Smack Bang (all going well!) is to expand, first to Auckland then Christchurch. We’ve also been considering going down a path of creating our own items - collars and leads, beds, bowls etc. But it’s early days yet!

What are some of your favourite international and local brands?
Huts & Bay is a definite international fave. The teepees, cat diamonds and hoodies are beyond cute, and the quality and workmanship is insane. Can’t go past Mashbone for fave local brand. People love getting behind a local project, particularly when they’re sustainable and healthy!


What is your favourite product you stock currently?
So hard to pick just one! The Loyal Canine Co. No1 Pawmade has been a lifesaver this summer. Poor Wellington doggos aren’t quite used to this hot weather and the pavements have been doing a number on their toe beans! It’s an all natural ointment that helps to heal cracked/dry pads and forms a protective layer to help protect from future damage.

Do you own any pets? If so, tell us about them!
We’ve got two 1year old Shih Tzu x Maltese brothers, Gus and Finn! We had a little Maltese called Freddy, very sadly he got GME (basically dog meningitis) and lost the fight last New Years Eve at only 3 years old after 6 months of chemo and trips back and forth to Massey in Palmerston North. I’ve never cried so much in my life. Home just isn’t right without a dog and we saw these two pop up and fell in love straight away. They’ve got completely different personalities - Gus is very shy and timid around strangers, and Finn thinks he’s a Rottweiler but is a sucker for belly rubs, but they’re both equally great cuddlers! (Gus on the left in photo).


For any one wanting to start their own pet related business, give us your number one tip. 
Do your research! But most importantly you have to believe in the concept - conviction is everything! If you’ve done the research and still believe your concept will work then throw everything you have into it.