PetSmart and Petco account for 20% of all pet product sales in the US, according to market research publisher Packaged Facts. The two pet retail stores had combined sales of about US$11 billion based on Packaged Facts' estimates, with sales of natural pet products an important factor in the strong performances.
"Although PetSmart is public and Petco privately held, the two companies share a number of similarities. This ranges from their pet parent pitch, to their focus on national brands and private labels alike, to their emphasis on higher-margin products and services, to their leading e-commerce websites," says David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts research director. "For both chains, factoring strongly among those higher-margin products are natural products."
Aside from superior customer service and a knowledgeable staff, an important differentiator for pet specialty retailers to separate them from lower-priced mass retailers is their focus on natural products, and an increase in all-natural private label brands. In Packaged Facts' April/May 2014 Pet Owner Survey, 39% of pet owners agreed that the natural products sold in the pet specialty channel are better than those sold at mass, up from 28% in a February/March 2013 survey.
For PetSmart and Petco, natural products are a major thrust, with Petco fielding its "store-within-store" It's All Natural departments, and PetSmart — which in December 2014 agreed to be acquired for more than $8 billion by a group led by BC Partners Inc. — calling itself "the most trusted source for natural pet solutions." Both chains feature a wide array of natural brands, with category leaders including Nutro, Blue Buffalo, WellPet, Natural Balance, Merrick and Natura.