After years of watching the tide go in the wrong direction, it looks like traditional pet specialty retailers may finally be reaching a turning point in their battle against online outlets. At least that’s what I take away from the growing exodus of pet food brands from Chewy.com in the wake of its acquisition by PetSmart.
It began with Tuffy’s Pet Foods, which pulled its brands from Chewy.com back in April. Then, last week, Champion Pet Foods and Fromm Family Foods followed suit by announcing that they are removing their products from the online outlet. But this may be just the beginning. We can probably expect to see other pet food brands that are dedicated to the independent channel make similar announcements in the months to come.
Unsurprisingly, moves like these have been well received by brick-and-mortar pet stores across the country. For years now, Chewy.com has been a particular focus of ire for many independent retailers because of what has been perceived as its predatory pricing practices. In fact, many in the pet industry say that overwhelming pricing pressure is exactly what eventually drove PetSmart to acquire the online pet food seller.
Of course, the competition that brick-and-mortar pet stores face from the internet is an issue that’s much bigger than any one online player. Still, the removal of key brands from Chewy.com is a clear indication that vendors hear independent retailers’ pleas for a level playing field loud and clear and are heeding the call to action.
As interesting as the response to PetSmart’s acquisition of Chewy.com has been so far, it will be even more interesting to see the implications it holds for similar deals in the future. For example, I can’t help but wonder how Amazon’s impending purchase of Whole Food Market might eventually play out. It is still far too early and this acquisition has too many fundamental differences from the PetSmart/Chewy.com deal to draw any definitive conclusions. Yet, one prominent pet food vendor who sells through Amazon has already told me that he will cease to do business with the online retailer should it try to bring the company’s products into Whole Foods stores.
That sounds about right to me. After all, the vendors who declare their devotion to the independent pet specialty channel should be ready and willing to stand by this assertion. Luckily, it seems that many are doing just that.