5 Tips For Growing Pet Care Profits

Oct 17, 2018

Did you know that there are approximately twice as many households with pets than there are with children? Or that the pet care category has been growing four percent a year in the grocery vertical for the last 15-plus years—more than twice the rate of the overall center store—and shows no sign of slowing down?

Joe Toscano, vice president and director of trade and industry relations at Nestlé Purina Petcare, says that purchasing pet food is the number two reason people leave their homes to go to the store, second only to picking up prescription medicine. Additionally, pet owners make 14 percent more trips to the store and spend 31 percent more across the entire store.

It just makes sense for independent grocers to make their stores a destination for pet shoppers so they can carve out a piece of the $69 billion pet care industry while boosting sales across the store. If you haven’t been paying attention to your pet care aisle lately, it’s time to freshen it up and make sure your customers know you can be their one-stop-shop for the entire family, including the family pet. Here are five ways you can do that:

  1. Grow and Tailor Your Assortment
    A wide assortment of products is essential to keep customers from looking elsewhere for their pet supplies. And once shoppers are in the store, they will buy other items. Today, there are more options than ever for growing your pet aisle. 

    “Some super premium pet brands that were once exclusively sold in pet specialty outlets are now expanding into grocery,” says Toscano. “While these brands appeal to a certain type of pet owner, it’s more important than ever that you know your shopper and make sure your assortment matches the brands they gravitate towards. You don’t want to disenfranchise your core customer.” 

    In other words, your growing assortment should be tailored to your customer base. This means not only carrying the right mix of natural, premium, and ultra brands for your shoppers, but also knowing what kinds of pets your customers are most likely to have.

    For example, Archie McGregor, owner of Dissmore’s IGA in Pullman, Washington, says that since he is in a college town, his customers have a higher proportion of cats and smaller dogs than a suburban or rural store may have, so he skews is inventory toward products targeted to those pets.

  2. Price Right
    Toscano reports that about 85 percent of pet aisle sales are off the shelf at regular price. However, he recommends competitive pricing along with regular sale promotions, well-balanced across the breadth of your product offering.

    Another pricing strategy that stimulates sales is higher multiples of canned food. Trends are showing that customers are likely to take advantage of 20- or 30-can bundles at everyday prices, and that customers who buy wet food in bulk will feed it to their pets more often, then return to the store for more.

  3. Compete with Online Retailers
    Home delivery of pet food from online retailers is a growing competitive concern, but it is one you can compete with. One way to do this is to offer a click and collect model, where customers can order online and pick up at the store. Toscano notes that an additional advantage to this service is that customers who combine online and in-store shopping tend to spend twice as much as customers who shop in-store only. He also suggests considering home delivery as an additional option.

    Another way to compete with online retailers is to make the in-store pet shopping experience the best it can be. “Make the aisle easy to navigate, and display a pet endcap,” says Toscano. “The endcap is a great place to highlight profitable impulse purchases such as treats and toys." Offering regimen end caps of wet, dry, and treats (and litter for cats) will stimulate multiple purchases and increase store profits. 

  4. Follow Trends
    Pet food trends are following human food trends more closely than ever. It used to take much longer for human food trends to trickle down to pet food, but today it’s almost instant. Some recent trends in pet food include:

    • Outcome-based nutrition: Food that produces specific results, such as a shinier coat or more energy.

    • Ingredient-focused: Food that avoids or highlights specific ingredients, such as grain-free food or food with meat as the first ingredient. This trend also includes sustainable, traceable sourcing of ingredients direct from the farm, and natural and organic ingredients.

    • Experiential feeding: Engaging with pets through additional feeding occasions with meal-compliments such as broths and treats.

  5. Promote Your Pet Aisle
    “In the grocery industry, we don’t do a great job telling our consumers we have similar products to those carried in pet specialty outlets,” says Toscano. “We need to show our consumers they don’t need to make the extra trip.”

    Almost three quarters of households will shop your pet aisle, but first they need to know about it. McGregor of Dissmore’s IGA makes sure to feature pet items in each weekly ad.

    “It’s the perfect time to expand your pet space,” says Toscano. “Pet drives people to store, expands their spend, and the category’s growth can fuel growth of your overall sales.”

humane society pickup pet drive 003Dissmore’s IGA hosts annual pet adoptions and food drives in support of the local animal shelter

Attention to Pets = Attention to Pet Care
One way to bring attention to your pet care offerings is by supporting your local animal shelter or other pet-related charity. Archie McGregor, owner of Dissmore’s IGA in Pullman, Washington, reports that his store holds two different events that bring awareness to his pet aisle while doing good in his community.

Pet Drive 008Dissmore’s IGA hosts annual pet adoptions and food drives in support of the local animal shelter

Pet Supply Drive
Twice a year, Dissmore’s packs bags of supplies its local shelter needs, such as pet food, cat litter, and cleaning supplies. The bags are sold to customers for $10 each and donated to the shelter. During a typical event, the store sells 50 bags, and many customers also purchase additional discounted items from the shelter’s list of needs to donate, as well as stock up on essentials for their own animals.

Dissmore’s runs the pet supply drives for a week, and promotes them with fliers, bag stuffers, and Facebook posts. The pet supply drive is always successful, with entire pallets of litter and food sold to customers for donation. “Sometimes we have more donations than we can fit in the shelter’s minivan,” McGregor says.

Pet Drive 009Dissmore’s IGA hosts annual pet adoptions and food drives in support of the local animal shelter

Pet Adoption Events
During one of the pet supply drives, Dissmore’s invites the shelter to bring animals available for adoption to its parking lot for one day. The focus of the adoption event is to bring awareness to the shelter, and while the pets brought to the event often find forever homes that day, the shelter reports that adoptions at their center increase in the weeks following the event.

In addition to these two local events, Dissmore’s participates in IGA’s annual pet photo contest.


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