SALISBURY, N.C. -- Food Lion here is dipping its paws into the pet superstore waters with a freestanding test store in Charlotte, N.C.
Operating under the Animal Stuff banner, the unit contains 17,000 square feet of selling space and carries a complete line of super premium pet foods, including Iams, Hill's Science Diet, Purina O.N.E., Nutro and Pro Plan. Among the 10,000 items stocked in the store are aquariums, fresh and salt water fish, birds, reptiles and small mammals. Animal Stuff also has an experienced groomer, pet photographer and free pet care classes, which are run in conjunction with the local Humane Society.
Located in the University Plaza Shopping Center, Animal Stuff, which opened last month, occupies an old Food Lion location that was closed when the chain opened a new store.
Cecily Durrett, a Food Lion spokeswoman, told SN that at the present time there are no plans to open additional Animal Stuff stores, although the chain is closely watching the unit.
"We are going to learn a lot about merchandising. This is an out-of-the-box approach for us that is certainly going to have lessons to be learned that will be applied to our grocery store formats," Durrett said.
She described Animal Stuff as a cross between a local pet shop and pet superstores, such as PetSmart, using a knowledgeable sales staff to sell premium products at competitive prices.
"We've hired a team of people with pretty deep backgrounds and experience in their particular areas of specialty, whether it be reptiles, marsupials or exotic birds. Each associate does have a niche in one of those areas," she said.
Many supermarkets long to carry veterinarian and pet shop brands, such as Iams and Science Diet, and Durrett said Food Lion has not really had a problem sourcing them for Animal Stuff.
"We've worked very closely with our vendors who have been very cooperative. It was not that long ago that you couldn't even buy some of these brands over the counter. You had to buy them from a vet. So it has been evolving very quickly, and I think we hit that curve at exactly the right time, in terms of the vendor ability," she explained.