Sales of pets are half of Petland's total business. The
franchise chain places over 50,000 puppies per year. But
recently Petland has been focusing on increasing sales of
petfoods and other consumable products. Petfood sales account
for about 12% of Petland's total sales, while at Petsmart and
Petco, petfood sales are 50% of the total.
I recently visited Petland's corporate headquarters in
Chillicothe, Ohio, USA, where I had a chance to talk with some
of the executives there, and then follow up with more
questions. Here's some of what they had to say.
Tony Neff, Petland's director of merchandising services,
predicts the petfood industry will continue to see growth equal
to the increase in the household popularity of dogs and cats.
"That growth," he says, "will trend toward natural, holistic
and organic formulas as knowledgeable consumers spare no
expense in providing the very best nutrition for their beloved
Neff sees one of Petland's biggest challenges as growing
sales in its Nutrition Centers by consistently educating and
training their pet counselors, and subsequently customers.
"Since we cannot compete with the chain retailers on price," he
says, "our market advantage is consumer influence and
interaction at the point of sale. Our value equation for the
consumer is our knowledge of nutrition and our ability to
impart that knowledge effectively everyday."
Joe Watson, vice president of retail operations, sees
Petland's in-store Nutrition Centers as a major accomplishment.
He says they are "committed to delivering a strategic mix of
high-quality dog and cat foods in a footprint smaller and more
compact than our competitors." He points out that their new-mix
Nutrition Centers feature life stage, breed-specific and
solution-based products that complement one another in
uniqueness. "We do not compete on depth, breadth and price,"
says Watson. "Our specialty is to exceed customers'
expectations through education and the one-on-one
The cultural curve toward the humanization of pets is a
phenomenon that started with superpremium foods in the 1980s,
according to Neff. "Today, the word superpremium still stands
for better-than-before," he notes, "but the end products are
far more sophisticated."
"The recalls stunned the superpremium petfood buyer who has
traditionally paid more to receive a higher level of nutrition
for their pet," says Neff. He notes that many were disappointed
to learn about ingredient sourcing problems. They wondered why
they "paid more and got less sophistication." He says it was a
wake-up call that now causes consumers to read more labels, ask
more questions and seek more natural, home-grown ingredients,
and yes, to pay even more to offer the very best to their
"The negative impact of the recalls on sales, store traffic
and image was brief and minimal," asserts Julie Washburn,
Petland's public relations and community service coordinator.
"More often than not, the educated consumer seeks only the
truth. Reassurance and trust are easy when you have the current
answers and the alternative brands," says Washburn. "Petfood
sales today have never been stronger at Petland."
"Petland stores enjoy a market advantage based upon three
key differentiators: our pets, our pet counselors and our store
presentation," according to Watson.
Petland's president, Frank Difatta, thinks the future for
Petland is bright because of its differentiation from the
generally "pet-less" chain store concept. "While other pet
specialty formats strive to look, act and price alike," says
Difatta, "Petland stores stand alone as exciting destinations
for both browsers and buyers. We attract consumers because we
are fun. We are fun because we have pets.
"Petland's mission everyday," says Difatta, "is to match the
right pet with the right customer and meet the needs of both.
We are dedicated to enhancing our customers' knowledge and
enjoyment of the human-animal bond."