What is Ron Coughlin's Vision for Petco?
Petco CEO Ron Coughlin
Last week, Petco made news with the announcement that it is removing food and treats that contain artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from its product mix. While it is a bold move on the part of the big-box retailer, however, it is just part of the vision that new CEO Ron Coughlin has for the chain—a vision that he shared in a recent interview with Pet Business.
In fact, Coughlin sees Petco evolving into something akin to the many independent pet specialty chains that have enjoyed phenomenal success over the past two decades by focusing on healthy, wholesome nutrition, along with services that offer a real value to pet owners.
“We think that a lot of these retailers do a great job, and part of our ambition from a merchandise standpoint, particularly with food, is to be the scale specialty independent—meaning, we look out for the pet’s nutritional needs and give informed nutritional guidance in the aisle. Some of these independent specialty players do that very well, and they set the bar that we are looking to match or beat,” he said.
On the services side of the business, Petco’s commitment to bringing these offerings to the forefront is evidenced by the company’s new PetCoach store concept. “I’m super excited about PetCoach and what it symbolizes—our shift to more of a service-oriented concept,” Coughlin explained. “We’re ahead of our plan thus far with PetCoach; we will open another store before the end of the year. It’s a phenomenal learning lab for us, both as a stand-alone concept, as well as informing future Petcos.”
Of course, given the ongoing impact that internet sales are having on the retail pet industry, building up Petco’s online business—an area in which the big-box chain wasn’t particularly successful in the past—is also a priority. And according to Coughlin, the company is already seeing improvement.
“Our digital business has grown by double digits. Would I like it to be triple digits? Sure, but it’s growing and we’ve come up with important offers—like buy online, pick up in store, ship to store and repeat delivery—that are resonating with customers,” reported Coughlin. “It’s important to understand that we are not one-dimensional; our whole concept is around customers being able to buy when they want, how they want, and being able to go across from digital to brick-and-mortar, and eventually to in-home services as well.”
While the wheels of transformation have already been set in motion, Coughlin apparently understands that Petco will have to continue to make bold choices to ultimately achieve his vision.
“We are going to be bold and redefine a new Petco that takes the nutritional high ground and transforms the business into more of a services offering, as well as unique supplies,” he explained. “When you bring that all together, we don’t believe that anybody in the world can be a better partner for pet parents than Petco can across all channels, all offers.”