Make Center Store Your Pet Project

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Make Center Store Your Pet Project

By Jim Dudlicek, EnsembleIQ - 02/17/2017

The fresh perimeter, it’s safe to say, will always be the showplace of the supermarket. But that doesn’t mean retailers should abandon all hope for a center store that consumers will enjoy to shop.

Creating experiential destinations is the key to boosting center store. Recent studies, discussed at the Food Marketing Institute’s Midwinter Executive Conference, indicate that health and beauty care, and general merchandise present lucrative opportunities for center store sales.

There’s also plenty of profit potential in pet care, as outlined in PG’s latest pet report, on page 94 of the February 2017 issue. 

“When a person has a pet care need, it’s more likely to spur a trip than any other category,” says Tim Joyce of The Cambridge Group, whose latest study indicates that pet-related sales represent a $5 billion opportunity for retailers. “If grocery and mass retailers get their assortments and merchandising right, pet care could be the biggest trip driver in absolute terms.”

Some grocery retailers are already pursuing this opportunity with gusto. For example, Hy-Vee’s Bloomington, Ill., supermarket (PG’s April 2016 Store of the Month, p. 70) features a pet department with wide aisles and strategic merchandising like a center island, bulk treats and specialty products.

With the trend toward humanization of animals as members of the family, pets are an economic powerhouse. According to a new study conducted by George Mason University and released at the recent Pet Industry Leadership Conference in Laguna Beach, Calif., the pet industry generated more than $221 billion in direct, indirect and induced economic impact, including sales, jobs and tax revenues.

“This is the first time that anyone has looked at the widespread impact of the pet industry as a whole on the U.S. economy,” said Dr. Terry Clower, professor of public policy at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government and director of its Center on Regional Analysis, who headed the study. 

Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council President Mike Bober said that the study proves taking compassionate care of pets is also good business. “As we continue our efforts to provide for and protect the health and well-being of our companion animals, this report is an encouraging sign that responsible pet ownership is on the rise and that this industry is having a positive impact on our country, both in terms of the benefits we derive from pets and those that we provide them in return,” Bober said. 

According to the report, consumers spend more than $77 billion on their pets annually, mostly on pet food and veterinary services but also including pet supplies and toys, and pet pharmaceuticals.

Grocery retailers are looking to own wellness through collaborations between food and pharmacy. Why not extend that to pets? A true destination pet department could include vet checkups and pet prescription services in the pharmacy.

Much like the human side of food retailing has become more about the experience than simply the stuff, a world-class pet department could be just the thing to get center store up on its hind legs.

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