How to Refresh Your Pet Aisle for Bigger Baskets

Apr 6, 2021

Pet owners love their pets, and retailers should, too. With pet shoppers spending 27 percent more than non-pet shoppers, the pet category is the number two shopping trip driver nationally behind pharmacy, according to Nestlé Purina insights.

Additionally, as more people added pets to their homes and focused on their pets’ health and well-being during the pandemic, the pet category didn’t just weather the storm—it has thrived.

In 2020, pet food and treat sales increased 10 percent over 2019, and is estimated to rise 5.8 percent in 2021."
– American Pet Product Association

And yet, at IGA the pet care department is number 11 in order of important departments. So why are so many IGA retailers and other independents behind in pet sales? 

"The problem is that the bulk of independents feel that the pet category is unwinnable because their store is considered a fill-in for pet and not a destination,” says IGA CEO John Ross. “And that’s simply not true. While center store is hard to differentiate, Pet is the perfect place to do so.”

While center store is hard to differentiate, Pet is the perfect place to do so.”

Pat Patterson, category team leader at Nestlé Purina PetCare, agrees. “I think many times independent grocery retailers believe they are boxed out of pet care because they feel they can’t compete with big-box stores and online sales,” he says. “But the good news is pet is growing in grocery across most demographics in nearly every part of the country in both brick-and-mortar and online. And it’s a category that is driven around emotion and affection, which makes it tailor made for IGA’s locally-owned, community-focused stores."

It’s Time to Rethink Pet

  • Stores with an average or better pet performance have seen their total store performance 4x higher than retailers with a below average pet performance

  • Stores that lose a pet owner who shops in the category also lose 6 trips per pet shopper

  • Pet is growing in grocery across most demographics in nearly every part of the country in both brick-and-mortar and online—and that includes IGA stores

  • The pet category is driven by emotion and affection, which makes it tailor made for IGA’s locally-owned, community-focused stores

How do IGA retailers make their stores stand out as a pet care destination? Working with your wholesaler and your local Purina rep to find the right mix of assortment and merchandising is critical. Then it all comes down to shopper education.

“When shoppers know that their local IGA is the authority on healthy, happy pets, they will turn to your store not only when they need pet food and treats, but when they need help or to make a change,” Patterson explains. “If your store shares their expert knowledge on pet food and health through social media and with in-store personnel and signage, your shoppers will notice and reward that expertise with loyalty.”

Just look at Mahomet IGA in Mahomet, Illinois. When they volunteered to participate in the IGA-Nestlé Purina pet aisle redesign in 2019, sales were down about half a percent in the 39,000 square-foot store’s pet category, despite being in a large Millennial market with young families who have pets. After working with the store’s wholesaler to review the community demographics, existing pet category sales, nearby pet competition, and current pet aisle square footage, the Nestlé Purina team drew up a plan that used Mahomet IGA’s existing pet aisle space more efficiently by adding shelves and moving products into locations that made it easier for customers to shop. In fact, they were able to add 20-30 percent more products in the same amount of space.

The results speak for themselves: in three months without any additional promotions outside of the norm, they saw the following growth:

Cat Dog Icon


Sales in Pet

Wet Cat Food Icon


Wet Cat

Cat Treats Icon


Cat Treats

Cat Litter Icon


Cat Litter

This pet aisle redesign didn’t require ripping out shelving or an expensive remodel. "This is what happens when you apply science to center store,” said Ross.

By evaluating the store’s category data, the team determined the right assortment of products for their shoppers’ needs and paired that re-merchandising with a better use of the existing space through visual merchandising and updated signage.

Watch this before and after video to see the huge impact the redesign had without increasing square footage and stay tuned for a detailed case study on the project next week. 

How to Increase Pet Care Sales in Your Store

Ready to work on increasing sales in your store? Nestlé Purina, IGA, and your wholesaler are ready to combine forces to help, from optimizing your assortment and merchandising tactics to honing your marketing message with IGA’s “Healthy & Happy Pets” store signage and online content. Read on for more insights and next steps for getting started.   

1. Evaluate 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.

When reconsidering your pet aisle assortment, Patterson recommends stocking a better variety of the products your data suggests customers are already shopping for, while maintaining a varied selection in all subcategories. In other words, if your current customers are buying premium SKUs, increase your premium products and offer bigger bags of premium pet food.

Alternatively, if your current customers are mostly purchasing economy SKUs, then increase your economy product options, including bigger bags. With this approach, you cater your selection to your existing shoppers, but remember to include a decent selection of other SKUs, as there are still shoppers who need value or premium products, even if they’re not the top selling items.

As you determine your optimal assortment, Patterson also recommends reflecting the national trends in the pet category. Vary your assortment by life stages, from kitten or puppy to senior. Offer all-natural options and treats that have meat as the first ingredient.   

2. Upgrade your Visual Merchandising 

The new "IGA Happy & Healthy Pets" sign kit was designed to attract shoppers to the aisle, help them make the best choices for their pets, and easily navigate between fresh, wet, and dry food dog and cat food, and treats.


Use hanging signs to welcome shoppers to your pet aisle. Make it easy for cat and dog owners to find the right section with our color-coded navigation: blue for cat, green for dog. Aisle blades provide happy and healthy pet tips to give shoppers the knowledge they need to make the right decisions for their pets.

The aisle becomes a destination by including the paw print floor decals—kids will love jumping from paw print to paw print and ask to visit the aisle every time they’re in the store, which increases the chance the shopper will pick up items for their pets.

Pet Signage Kit

Everything you need to become THE local destination for all things pet.

Learn More


3. Share Content Online to Drive Loyalty & Sales

Pet is an emotional category, so stores can use that bond between humans and pets in their marketing efforts. Communicate that your store is invested in pets and wants to help pet owners make the very best decisions for their furry family members by sharing insights on how to select the right pet food, guidance on how much to feed your pet, and fun tips and recipes for homemade treats. And for IGA retailers, the good news is this content is readily available on 

Tap into IGA’s Shopper Solutions library for educational—and sales driving—articles that will have your shoppers feeling confident in the pet purchases made at your store. Better still, share these stories on your social media channels and encourage shoppers to register for the Pet Club newsletter (coming soon!) that delivers pet-focused articles to their inbox every month. And don't forget about Pet Month! In May, Nestlé Purina and IGA host the Pet PAW-fect Photo ComPETition, which is a great way to engage current and prospective shoppers on social media. 

By leveraging IGA’s tools, you will quickly become the pet authority in your market. In fact, making the small changes outlined above can increase sales without any additional promotions outside of the norm.

Next week, we will share a case study of Mahomet IGA, who used IGA, Nestlé Purina, and their wholesaler's tools to redesign their pet aisle and saw pet category sales increase 10.5 percent—with wet cat up 20 percent, cat treats up 28 percent, and cat litter up 53 percent—just by using these tools.

Next Steps

Ready to boost pet sales and attract loyal pet shoppers? Let's get started.

1. Order the Pet Signage kit, which will arrive with a playbook that tells you where to install the signs and gives you visual merchandising tips.

2. If you're planning a full aisle refresh, contact Nestlé Purina's Kara Destro, account manager, who can analyze your current sales and make optimal assortment recommendations by working with your wholesaler.

3. If you want to start with small changes, use the tips outlined in this story to update your assortment and improve your visual merchandising. Plus, use the instructions included in the Pet Signage Kit along with the online content to establish your store as a pet care destination.

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