Where Do Independents Fit in a Petco/PetSmart Face-off?


It was a big-box pet specialty showdown. A study done by Cheapism.com, a consumer review website, pit the two giants against each to see how they compare when it comes to price, services, loyalty programs and online shopping. The results were worth noting.


Petco emerged the winner in all but one category: services. According to Cheapism.com, Petco offers a more rewarding loyalty program, better deals on services and products, and an online shopping site that is easier to navigate and has lower prices. PetSmart, on the other hand, stood out for its more comprehensive portfolio of services, which include training, grooming, pet boarding and daycare. 


Yet while all of that is interesting, what is more noteworthy is that a survey like this can’t take into account consumer perception—and perception is everything.


An article about the survey was posted on Yahoo Shine, a women’s lifestyle website, and the comments there were revealing. 


The article struck a nerve with many PetSmart fans. Many commenters just flat-out disagreed with Cheapism.com’s assessment—PetSmart, they said, is definitely cheaper. One woman even posed the question: I wonder how much Petco paid to have this article written?* (Of course, applying that same logic, isn’t it possible that one might then also wonder how much PetSmart paid all those commenters to come out to its defense on Yahoo?)


However, sprinkled among the tens of comments that either went Team Petco or Team Petsmart, there were a few that threw another contender into the ring—the independent retailer. 


One supporter of his or her local pet shop said, “Personally, I like neither… Asking somebody at a chain store a question is like asking Yahoo answers, asking somebody at a local store is like asking an experienced person."


Another agreed, but lamented that unfortunately, there were no local pet shops that offered what a guinea-pig owner needs in his or her area. Someone else said that mom-and-pop stores are likely to be cheaper—now, that’s something you don't hear every day. “People are nuts to spend the money at either Petco or PetSmart,” said that commenter.


Of course, taking measure of the market using Yahoo comments is hardly scientific. But it is still a comfort to know that in a discussion on which big-box is better, some people will check the “neither” box and go local. 


* According to its website, Cheapism.com bases its conclusion on its research—and not kickbacks. “We do not accept payment or other gratuities from manufacturers or retailers to recommend or discuss their products on Cheapism.com. Nor do we accept any payment or other gratuity from websites to blog about their news stories or posts.”


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