Cormac Linehan of The Pet Experience spoke to the Weymouth FC LinkedIn page about what it’s like to be the new home shirt sponsor and the benefits it’s bought to his business.

You can find The Pet Experience at Unit E1 of Link Park or on their website or on Facebook.

Cormac, thanks for your time and congratulations on being drawn to be the new home shirt sponsor! How did you feel when Brian Stock called you to tell you’d won the sponsorship?

I was gobsmacked when Brian called me to tell me I’d won! I could not believe it! Winning the prize of being the home shirt sponsor is a huge honour and a great opportunity for a small business like mine. It is not something I would ever be able to afford in normal circumstances. I have to admit though, from the time I entered the competition, I had a sneaking feeling I might win…. I don’t know why but I just felt very confident!

Can you tell us a little bit about The Pet Experience?

I moved to Weymouth in 2006 to open the shop as it had the perfect balance of countryside and seaside. This, combined with the detailed market research I had done which showed that Weymouth had a strong proportion of pet owners and, at the time, limited competition (though that has changed!) made Weymouth a great choice. 14 years later and I still love Weymouth and all it has to offer!

The Pet Experience Pet Shop was established in 2007, starting off in a small commercial unit on the Granby. In the years that followed, business steadily grew and after 2 years, more space was needed. By some good fortune the premises next door became vacant and it was a simple case of knocking through the wall to more than double the shop size.

Fast forward another 7 years and it was again time to find bigger premises again this time, to the newly built Link Park Trading Estate and it is here that you will find The Pet Experience today!

As a specialist, independent nutrition centre, we stock a wide range of hypo-allergenic pet foods and have experienced, knowledgeable staff to help you choose the right one for your pet.  We have strict criteria on what qualifies to sit on our shelves and be taken home by our customers. In doing so we have built a strong reputation based on knowledge and trust.

I’m very proud of what we have achieved both in terms of how far we have come, starting out as a brand new business in 2007 to winning Retailer of the Year in the Dorset Echo Industry Awards in 2017 and being finalists 2 years running in the National Pet Industry Federation Awards for Pet Shop of the Year in 2017 and 2018.

The Pet Experience have sponsored The Terras matches before. How long have you been supporting The Terras?

I started supporting The Terras in 2016 with a pitch side sponsors board and over the past few years have supported the club in other ways, like sponsoring Man of the Match or the Match Ball etc.

To be honest I have been a rugby union supporter for my whole life (Ireland and Leinster of course!) so my interest in football is more recent and, oddly, it stemmed from my partners love of hockey as she plays a lot and enjoys watching football as there are similarities in how both sports are played in terms of field position and tactics.

How did it feel seeing The Pet Experience logo on the shirts for the first time?

Seeing my paw logo on the shirts was amazing, particularly when I saw the kit on BT Sports. Truly unreal, it’s like a dream to have such great coverage with a team that has really worked hard over the years and earned their right to play in the National League.

As you’ll see if you visit the shop, my logo is actually red and yellow but as I was told that this doesn’t come over very well on TV against the colour of the Terras kit (I never thought I would have to consider TV coverage when I designed the logo!) I went with the advice of the club and changed to the current colour scheme which I think looks really smart and very sharp!

How do you think the team will do this season?

I think the Terras have the ability to go all the way. Obviously the first few games were not what anyone wanted to see, we all want a ‘W’ at the end of a game however it’s been a big step-up to the National League and it’s no surprise that there has been a settling-in period.

I think the win against Stockport (away at that!) sent a strong message to the rest of the league. Weymouth are here to play and win, not to just make up numbers. Indeed when I watched the BT Sports round-up of that weekend’s games, all the talk was about the Terras and their amazing win!

The move into the National League was always going to be a challenge but we seem to be improving game by game and adapting to the style that Brian Stock is aiming for. I’m confident that, for our first year back in the National League, we can hold firm around mid-table but make no mistake, I think this is a team that can do great things!

The Pet Experience is also sponsoring our link school, Chickerell Primary Academy. How did that link come about?

I’m very lucky to have had an inside line for that opportunity. Robert Pask, who works at the school and is involved with the school football club, approached me a few months ago to ask if I would be interested/able to help out with the kit for the school team.

I am a firm believer in supporting the community, in any way I can. Be it raffle prizes for charity events or school kit like this. I was very pleased to see the finished product and think the school kit looks really great, with a nice tie-in to the Terras club colours.

What’s the strangest animal you’ve got in the shop, or have sold at The Pet Experience?

I have never been a fan of selling animals from a shop so have never had livestock in the shop. I prefer to recommend reputable local breeders and/or local rehoming centres. That said, I have had some interesting visitors! I have a customer that sometimes brings her rat in with her, it sits on her shoulder normally, under her coat! I have had some lovely little parakeets visit me recently too, again, tucked in the warmth of a coat and appearing very happy to be there! A number of years ago, I had some customers with an Amazon Parrot who asked me if they could leave their parrot to me in their Will! I said yes as I’ve always liked birds but so far he’s still living happily with his owners.

How’s business during these times? Have you seen more customers using your online store?

Business has been challenging this year for various reasons. Covid has provided numerous challenges for businesses of all sizes this year, be it supply chain issues and actually getting stock on the shelves to sell or attracting customers into the shop safely and providing a safe and secure environment for them to be in.

We had a big spike in sales in the lead up to the first lockdown in March, it was crazily busy, unsustainably so, for a number of weeks. We then had a month or so of being quieter than normal which was expected after such a busy period. As we got into May things started to return to where they should be for the time of year and we’ve had a solid run since then all through the summer and autumn.

Since being the home shirt sponsor, we have had a number of new customers visit us as a result of the exposure through the Terras. Even though we do a lot of advertising and publicity already, the sponsorship has helped us reach even more pet owners in the area.

Anyone who follows Ollie Harfield on Instagram knows he loves his dog. Do you know if any of the other players have pets and have you had chance to speak to them about their pets?

I don’t actually know which of the players are pet owners!

As sportsmen, nutrition is very important for the players, as it is for pets. My main goal is to have all pets on good quality, digestible and affordable pet food. Good food tends to equate to healthy pets as well as healthy players! If anyone at the club have queries or concerns around nutrition for their pets, my door is always open!

Which Terras player would you not trust to look after a pet?

Now that’s a loaded question! I think I’d have to answer that after a few post-match beers with the team and bring along a stuffed toy dog and see who is best at handling that before moving on to anything living!

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