Tractor Supply Doubles Down on Pets


Last week, rural retail powerhouse Tractor Supply Company announced that it will be opening two pet-focused stores under the name HomeTown Pet. Both stores will be located near the company's headquarters in Brentwood, Tenn.—in Franklin and Fairview.

While Tractor Supply Company's interest in pet product retailing is nothing new--I've seen reports that livestock and pet products account for more than 40 percent of the $5.2 billion in annual sales brought in through its 1,300-plus farm and ranch stores--opening pet-centric outlets is clearly a new direction for the chain. It really demonstrates the attractiveness of the bustling pet care market for outside retail channels.

Given the success that Tractor Supply Company has had over the past several years, even as other chains have stumbled or even succumbed under economic pressures, the company's new focus could ultimately result in some stiff competition for pet specialty stores. While two concept stores may not be a cause for concern, consider this statement from Steve Barbarick, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Tractor Supply Company: “The opening of two HomeTown Pet stores near our Store Support Center in Brentwood, Tennessee, will be an ideal way for us to gain better insight into the pet and animal supply category. We are a ‘test-and-learn’ company, and these stores will provide valuable information that can help us better understand the unique needs of our pet customers.”

I assume that this testing and learning is not intended to help in sprucing up the pet aisles of its farm and ranch outlets. More likely, the company is testing the waters for a bigger roll-out of pet-centric stores under the HomeTown Pet banner. Either way, it is a development that pet specialty retailers would be wise to monitor.

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