Chicago -- Here is a statistic that is raising optimism within the True Value pet department: 72% of pet owners consider their pet a member of their family. And what's more, 70% of dog owners think their dog understands how they are feeling better than most people do.
It's no secret that home owners love their pets, but the category is attractive to independent hardware stores for more retail-centric reasons, according to panelists on a True Value seminar here at the co-op's 2013 Fall Reunion.
The average pet owner spends $630 on pet food per year, said Bill Hancox, director of marketing insights and analytics for Chicago-based True Value. Pet sales across retail have grown at a clip of about 3% per year, even through a major recession. And no single retail channel dominates the pet market.
"There's no reason that our stores can't get their share of this business," Hancox said during the presentation titled "How Pet Can Be a Winning Business for You" here at the co-op's 2013 Fall Reunion.
Pet is a growing part of the overall business at Kruegers True Value in Neenah, Wis., according to fifth-generation owner Jim Webb. "We want to create a culture in the store, and we want to be known as a welcoming place for pets," he said. "And customers love that."
Webb says Kruegers has been in the pet business to a serious degree for about a year and a half, dating back to the initial effort of the True Value co-op's expansion and promotion of the category. A sign outside Kruegers reads: "Well-behaved pets on leashes are always welcome here." The store regularly takes pictures of pets and posts them online.
Webb and other panelists explained that the margin on a typical bag of dog food is below average, but the category is a big booster in customer traffic. "You're seeing a repeat customer on a regular basis," Webb says. "The pet is always eating. And that gives us an opportunity to offer the pet owner something else."
Willis Qualheim, president of Qualheim's True Value in Shawano, Wis., also believes in the drawing power of pet supplies. "If you told me a few years ago that people would pay $55 for dog food, I'd say 'your nuts.'" he said. "But a lot of our sales are in the premium end at $45 and up."
Qualheim said the pet category lends itself well to market