PetSmart, Inc., is a chain of pet stores in the United States and Canada that operates 1,000 individual stores as of January 2008. PetSmart builds its business, stocks its products, and develops its services for a specialized demographic referred to by the company as the pet parent. Pet parents are owners who treat their pets as members of their families, and research by the pet industry has shown that the average dog owner can spend approximately $15,000 on their dog throughout the course of the dog's life. 75% of industry profitability is generated by this segment of pet enthusiasts, and PetSmart has grown over the years to offer the full range of pet health products, premium pet food, grooming services, specialized training classes, exotic pet departments, and many also contain a fully functioning veterinary hospital and pharmacy.
Pacific Coast Distributing, PETsMART, and the Warehouse Mentality
PetSmart was founded in 1986 by Jim Dougherty and was originally called Pacific Coast Distributing. It opened its first stores in Phoenix, AZ in 1987. The stores' names were changed to PETsMART. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, PETsMART stores were opened across the southwestern United States and California. These oldest stores are large, generally averaging around 22,000 square feet in size. They carried mostly selections of pet food with smaller sections of hardgoods. They had the feeling inside of a COSTCO, or another similar large club-type warehouse store.
The earliest stores focused on selling large amounts of a variety of food brands at the lowest prices. As the internet began growing, online shopping became much more popular and online pet retailers began offering pet food and much lower prices than could be offered in retail stores. PetSmart launched its website in 1999 to stay competitive, but many online pet retailers still kept their prices lower than PetSmart's. It was in the late 1990s that the company began to redirect its efforts toward a greater emphasis on services and a more pleasant shopping experience within an aesthetically pleasing, well laid out store.
Rebranding: From "Mart" to "Smart"
In 2000, PetSmart began building smaller stores, generally between 16,000 and 19,000 square feet in size. The layout was changed, creating smaller departments that grouped products by pet, e.g., fish, cat, and dog sections, rather than by product type. This was done to help create a "store-within-a-store" atmosphere that encouraged customers to see the full selection of products available for their type of pet. The physical construction of new stores is different; older PetSmart stores have high, warehouse ceilings and perimeter steel racking, which houses overstock pallets of food and hardgoods visible to customers. Newer PetSmart stores have drop ceilings and large backrooms where overstock is stored, keeping it off of the sales floor, so it is not a visual distraction for customers.
In 2005, PetSmart officially changed its name, from "PETsMART" to "PetSmart," as a representation of the company's desire to be recognized as a leader in the industry for giving its customers the best solutions possible for the care of their pets. The company's service vision expanded, as PetsHotels, PetSmart's pet boarding facilities within its stores, began opening in new markets within the company. The company continues to offer pet training classes and grooming services. PetSmart continues to drive services growth, both for the sake of profitability, but also as a means to offer something unique to customers that they can't get online or at smaller, local pet stores.
Departments, Products, and Services
- Dog and Cat Consumables and Hardgoods: PetSmart offers a full product line of cat and dog foods and treats. Brands range from grocery dog foods to high quality premium foods. Grocery brands such as Alpo, Kibbles N' Bits, Pedigree and Iams are available but many national brands are now offering higher quality foods with less cheap filler ingredients such as corn and wheat, which are also common allergens for sensitive dogs. PetSmart's premium pet food offerings include Blue Buffalo, Nutro Natural Choice and Nutro Ultra, Avoderm, Royal Canin and Nature's Recipe foods with are made with quality proteins and are often healthier choices for dogs and cats. Also available for purchase are various categories of hardgood products for dogs and cats. These include dog and cat kennels, gates, beds and crates, along with assortments of toys, leashes and collars, apparel, and medical, dental, and grooming supplies.
- Specialty Pets and Pet Products: The specialty department includes fish, birds, reptiles and small pets (hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs and others). PetSmart sells a variety of these pets as well as products to help care for them. PetSmart sells a line of fish tanks at very reasonable prices, and cages and terrariums as well. The specialty department also offers free water testing to all customers so that they can assist the customer in monitoring and maintaining their aquarium systems. Specialty associates can also consult with customers if they are having problems with fish illness.
- Pet Training Classes: PetSmart offers several types of training classes for customers' dogs, given by associates trained in canine learning theory. They offer classes for puppies, which are geared towards dogs 5 months of age and younger that haven't had any previous training. These classes are designed to teach owners how to teach their dogs basic obedience commands, how to walk well on a leash, how to sit politely for petting, as well as age-specific problems like potty training. There is a beginner level class for dogs over 5 months of age that haven't had any other training. It goes over similar material, but it meant to deal with adolescent behaviors. Intermediate and advanced level classes also exist for dogs that have had previous training, and the trainers also offer private lessons.
- Pet Grooming Services: In the pet salon at PetSmart, dogs and cats can receive a wide variety of grooming services. These include baths, brush-outs, full trims done according to the owner's wishes, nail trims, ear cleaning, and flea and tick baths. Long-coated breeds such as poodles, shih tzus, and spaniels will tend to cost more due to the time involved with their grooming. PetSmart sets a base price for the service based upon the breed of dog and the type of service requested and may then charge extra if the coat is in bad condition. PetSmart recommends frequent grooming to keep a pet's skin and coat in the best shape possible. Most PetSmarts also offer grooming for cats, however, associates must go through a special certification process to be allowed to groom cats, so it is best to inquire about the availibility of this service ahead of time.
- PetsHotels: Some PetSmarts also contain PetsHotels, which are PetSmart's pet boarding facilities. At this point in time, most markets do not yet have a PetsHotel, as they require a significant amount of square footage and as such, it is often not feasible to add them to established stores since they would usually cut into merchandising space considerably. However, many PetSmarts being built now are building hotels directly into them. They are very spacious, containing large kennels with televisions and sleeping areas, and have big community play areas. Many hotels also feature closed-circuit feeds that pet owners can view in order to check in on their pets while they're away.
- Banfield, The Pet Hospital: Many PetSmarts also contain a Banfield, which is a veterinary hospital that is a separate company from PetSmart, but is housed right inside the store. Banfield services vary according to location, but most contain a pharmacy and fully functioning surgical facilities.
PetSmart Charities is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that was founded in 1994 to help support charitable organizations and animal shelters in their work saving pets' lives. PetSmart Charities has Adoption Centers inside most PetSmart stores which are areas that are donated, rent-free, to a local adoption agency so that they may bring pets down to the stores for adoption. Food and litter are provided by the store for the shelter workers to use to take care of the pets in the Adoption Centers. Because of this program, over 3,000,000 pets have been found homes as of January 2008 through adoptions clinics. PetSmart Charities has also provided over $10,000,000 in grant funding since it was established, and has donated more than $52,000,000 to animal welfare programs.
The Future of PetSmart
PetSmart's future as a company looks very promising. It has reached its goal of having 1,000 stores open by the year 2010, with more stores opening all of the time. However, PetSmart does not solely invest in rapid expansion and growth; every year it invests significant amounts into renevating older stores that need updating. PetSmart operates under the assumption that pet owners tend to be people who really care a lot about animals and are happy to invest a lot of money and time into their well-being. The company continues to strive to make sure it is offering these customers the highest quality solutions to meet these needs.
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