How Retail Can Maximize Pet Parent Benefits

Chewy CEO Sumit Singh is “dancing at work every day”, thanks to the growing buying power of his customers – “pet parents”.

Chewy is an online pet retailer that since 2018 has grown its presence and engagement with beloved pet owners across the United States. In 2018 and 2019, the company spent “astronomically” on marketing and building e-commerce operations to make that investment pay off significantly, as the pandemic saw more pet adoptions and more pet spending. line. With growing market share, revenue surpassed the $7 billion mark with over 20.1 million active customers and sales per active customer of an impressive $404.

And whether it’s basics like dog food, pet furniture, or even clothing (quilted puffer jackets are hot for humans and dogs alike in these colder months), Chewy, who s ‘associates with brands such as Disney, says he knows the way to a furry heart.

Singh was speaking at the National Retail Federation’s ‘Big Show’ in New York, as the retail world once again came together in real life to debate and discuss the future of the ever-changing world. of retail.

And while it can be difficult for pets themselves to engage with researching products online, real-life examples of retail pet haven brick-and-mortar stores are alive and well at New York.

On the sidewalk before entering the Reddy store (part of Petco) is a paw print sticker with the promise of “Free Belly Rubs Await”. Dogs can accompany their human friends to the store to be greeted by a chandelier made up of light bulbs and hanging tennis balls.

In stores, the theater of the commercial offer is geared as much towards the puppies as towards the owners. Dogs have harness and clothing adjustment areas with custom sized benches to make the process more comfortable and free tasty treats. There are even floor mirrors to check on your furry friend to check out their appearance. Unfortunately, while they don’t make sense to dogs, mirrors aren’t tools to help them feel camera-ready; they are more likely to be a “simple backdrop of life” according to American Scientific. Practically, the store also has the most important cleaning station with poop bags, gloves and sprays.

Services include necklace engraving and dietary consultations. Reddy’s proposition is to prepare you and your furry companion for adventures with products that are also deemed better for the planet. The Soho, New York-based store opened in October 2021 as an experiential retail environment.

Across the pond in Britain, the power of the pet pound (£) is just as buoyant, with huge growth in the number of pet owners.

In 2010, around 22% of UK households owned dogs, a rate which remained stable for almost a decade until 2020-21, when it rose to 33%, or more than 12 million households . The pandemic has increased the appeal and opportunity of owning a pet: working from home makes the prospect of having a four-legged friend more realistic.

Indeed, general pet ownership has grown significantly. Last year, the Pet Food Manufacturers Association estimated that 17 million (59% of) UK households had pets.

The UK’s largest pet store chain, Pets at Home, recorded sales of £319.4 million in the 12 weeks to December 30, 2021, an increase of 5.8% from a year to year. Despite cost pressures, bosses are confident that underlying pre-tax profits will beat expectations, coming in at at least £140m.

Pets at Home’s VIP loyalty program saw strong growth, up 13% year-on-year to seven million members, with more than one in four making purchases in-store and online.

Membership of the brands’ puppy and kitten club has increased by 60%, with an average of 24,000 new members signing up each week and members typically spending a third more than unregistered customers.

“The trend of new pet ownership has continued at the same rate we’ve seen throughout the pandemic and I don’t see that declining,” CEO Peter Pritchard predicted.

Pets at Homes also noted inflationary pressure and ongoing supply chain issues as ongoing concerns: “While we are not immune to these challenges, we are proactively mitigating them through a series of planned initiatives”. said Prichard.

With the average lifespan of a dog 10-13 years and a cat 12-18 years, the current wave of additional pet owners presents a decade of opportunity for the pet industry. .

The opportunity to build genuine and lasting relationships with every customer is important, and those who do so with respect will win the hearts and minds of ‘pet parents’.

There are still plenty of opportunities for pet retailers to move beyond promotions, premium brands and plush toys to ensure this generation of pet owners can provide the best quality of life they can afford. allow their pets.

Chewy absolutely recognizes this growth potential. Singh says, “A pet and a pet parent in their life cycle have more important needs than just buying food, toys or accessories. There are real health care needs, there are real service needs, and we have an obligation to connect them.

Having a pet often means a significant commitment of time and money, and animal charities are keen to make sure the realities of pet ownership are clear from the start.

As pet retailers ride the pulse of consumers’ desire to be a pet parent, the industry must be ready for a new era and one in which retailers deliver to customers, stakeholders, the community and even the animals.

In addition to sustainability and environmental improvements, leaders must ensure that their organizations are engaged with stakeholders and the broader pet community. This means looking not only for opportunities that bring financial gain, but also a commitment to helping owners through all stages of the animal’s life.

Supporting and educating pet owners should be part of what retailers offer, as we see a shift from generic images of perfect pets to a celebration of individual stories and the realities of ownership. pets on a daily basis.

Just as the early stages of pet ownership can be exciting and all-consuming, the final days can be emotionally turbulent. Clumsy CRM systems that send messages about pets that have “gone too soon” and how a retailer engages at a time when there are no more pets in the home are critical areas to address. Retailers need to develop a more sophisticated approach that ensures nuanced support and an appropriate sensitive response to these truly emotional moments in the pet ownership cycle.

This is truly an area of ​​retail where brick-and-mortar environments play an important role and where small, independent businesses can flourish. The ability for a retailer to establish a personalized, one-to-one relationship with the animal and its owner, as an advisor, adviser and even friend, is an opportunity that many small retailers understand and offer.

James O’Reilly is the owner of a local pet shop and Honley DIY and Pet Supplies store in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, England.

“In the current climate, where there is little or no support from our large suppliers, we try to go the extra mile to find the best quality products for our customers. We invest in our knowledge and are on the lookout. at the forefront of trends and new concepts and we pride ourselves on our ongoing relationship with our customers. If we recommend a new food to a customer, we always follow up to see how the animal is doing and to understand its there is something else we can help in. We want to make sure every animal can thrive.

Honley’s message and approach match those of Sumit Singh in New York. Singh told NRF conference attendees that it “takes a village to raise a pet” with cooperation, networking and a holistic approach shaping the future of pet ownership.

It’s a philosophy that’s already passed down through the hearts of local pet stores, and where smaller retailers have certainly taken the lead.


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