Showroom Battle

Remember when the word showroom conjured up images of shiny cars, living-room sets and Barcaloungers? Well, these days, you add an “ing” to it and you get a dirty word—at least in the world of retail.

Adding to the growing mountain of evidence that suggests that Amazon is no friend to brick-and-mortar retail, a recent study by Placed, a mobile analytics company, listed Petsmart as number two, after Bed Bath and Beyond, among the most retailers visited by Amazon showroomers—and these shoppers are 25 percent more likely to visit the store than the average customer.

"Amazon was the clear winner in e-commerce 1.0, and unless brick-and-mortar retailers shift from reactive to proactive, Amazon will win e-commerce 2.0 on the backs of offline retailers," said David Shim, founder and CEO at Placed, whose study, Placed: Aisle to Amazon Study, is based on information garnered through tracking the mobile phone usage of nearly 15,000 survey respondents in January.  

Meanwhile, also in January, Petco CIO Herman Nell, was busy talking up the company’s high-powered weapon against showrooming—puppies. According to news reports, Nell told attendees at the National Retail Federation’s convention in New York City that puppies were the best defense he could think of.

"Anybody who comes in with the intent of showrooming, when they look into that puppy's eyes, they're not showrooming anymore," he said, as reported by Business Insider.

So, the messages are clear. Full-line pet retailers are certainly not immune to the evils of showrooming—price-conscious customers armed with cell phones and the right app take pleasure in finding bargains that brick-and-mortars can’t compete with. This will be especially true for high-ticket products that don’t cost much to ship. But independent retailers that either sell pets or have pets available for adoption may have an advantage that even Amazon can’t trump.