How Did Pet Stores Perform in 2019?
It was another pressure-filled year for pet stores, which face increasing competition for market share from both other brick-and-mortar retailers and e-commerce outlets—the impact of which is clearly reflected in bottom lines across the channel. According to the 2019 edition of Pet Business’ annual retailer survey, the percentage of pet specialty retailers that reported at least some increase in sales (69 percent) dropped by five points versus last year (74 percent).
However, that is not to say that pet stores are ready to concede anything to their competitors. In fact, members of this channel are proving to be quite resilient by actively adjusting the way they defend and even grow their customer base. For example, pet retailers have become adept at identifying key product segments that play to their unique competitive strengths and thus can be counted on to drive growth. Among the categories that survey participants pointed to as having the most potential for businesses were products that are made in the USA (55 percent), CBD products (50 percent) and frozen/refrigerated raw foods (30 percent). The two latter examples, in particular, represent areas in which brick-and-mortar pet specialty retailers have an unmatched ability to provide the educational component necessary to attract customers to product categories that have yet to reach their peak among mainstream consumers.
At the same time, pet stores have come a long way in evolving how they engage consumers. This is especially apparent in how brick-and-mortar retailers are meeting their online competition head-on by utilizing the internet to market their businesses and even engage in e-commerce. More than 40 percent of survey respondents indicated that they were increasing their online presence in order to better compete with internet outlets, while nearly 20 percent said that they have added an e-commerce element to their business model (up from 10 percent in 2018).
This ability to adjust to a rapidly changing marketplace has been and will continue to be essential to the continued health of the independent pet specialty channel. And given the progress already made within the channel, it’s no surprise that an overwhelming majority of retailers (96 percent) have a positive outlook for the year ahead.