Examining the impact of the pandemic on pet retailers

We closed out Day 2 of the NRF Retail Big Show last week with a conversation with Petco CEO, Ron Coughlin.

Petco is a category-defining health and wellness company focused on improving the lives of pets and ‘pet parents’. Since our founding in 1965, they now operate more than 1,500 Petco stores across U.S., Mexico and Puerto Rico, including a growing network of more than 100 in-store veterinary hospitals, and offer a complete online resource for pet health and wellness.

Since the pandemic, the pet industry has continued to boom as hybrid working and geographic shifts mean people are bringing more pets into their families. And the category continues to grow as pet parents invest in premium products and services despite historic inflation.

Ron Coughlin, Petco CEO, discussed how Petco has accelerated omnichannel growth by reengineering its business to meet consumer dynamics, which he believes other retailers can implement.

He provided insight into how ‘data-informed consumer insights’ can leverage broader trends and consumer behaviours in retail.

Pet adoption surged during the pandemic and customer traffic to Petco accelerated. But Petco’s current success is not just due to external factors, like the pandemic.

The company’s rebrand from a ‘pet product retailer’ to a pet ‘health and wellness’, one-stop-shop ‘ecosystem’, allowed the company to fully capitalise on the surge in pet ownership.

Coughlin claimed that despite the pandemic restrictions, the company’s physical stores performed well over the period. Petco’s weekly foot traffic continues to exceed pre-pandemic levels.

Coughlin suggest Petco is also one of the few truly omnichannel retailers, with its ‘online’ and ‘offline’ channels working hand in hand to improve customer experience and company efficiency.

“Customers can book grooming appointments online and customise care reminders, every month, or every quarter. If they choose to shop online, Petco can leverage its distributed fleet of stores to expedite delivery. This is an element online-only retailers can offer.

Petco has partnered with DoorDash, enabling same-day delivery from any of its 1,500 stores.

“This helps Petco fulfill digital orders for a fraction of the delivery costs incurred by online–only retailers who need to ship their products across multiple zones”.

As of 2021, 80% of Petco’s digital orders are shipped directly from stores rather than from a dedicated distribution center.

Coughlin has credited the company’s growth to the pandemic-induced movement into suburbs and more regional areas.

“As people moved out of small city apartments, many adopted pets and looked for pet care retailers near their new homes to support their pet-parent journey. A clear shift to shopping local”.

The company recently began testing their “small town rural” store concepts to further serve the new residents.




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