MONTVALE, N.J. -- Ownership of Fido and Felix, as well as other furred, feathered and scaled friends, is on the rise nationwide. This has caused supermarkets like A&P to make pet supplies a destination for their customers.
"The high level of pet ownership in this country has made pet supplies a burgeoning category for supermarkets, with more variety to offer," said Michael Rourke, senior vice president of communications and corporate affairs at A&P here.
Among other supermarkets moving into expanded pet supply sections are Dillon Stores, Price Chopper Supermarkets, Big Y Foods, Acme Markets, Big V Supermarkets, Food Lion and Star Market Co. These chains have decided to fight back against the pet supply superstores and mass merchandisers that have been stealing share away from grocery stores in this category over the last few years.
A&P opened its first destination Pet Shop departments last year to compete better against the growth of pet superstores, said Rourke. "There's an opportunity for supermarkets," he added. The chain is testing two formats of the pet destination center. Both versions resemble a complete pet shop. In one format, Pet Shop centers were set up on both sides of a full in-line grocery aisle at three New Jersey A&P stores: Woodcliff Lake, opened April 16, 1996; Kenilworth, Feb. 27, 1996; and Brick Town, Nov. 11, 1995.
The retailer also began testing its first freestanding Pet Shop format in a Walnutport, Pa., store that opened June 5 in the chain's Super Fresh Markets division, based in Philadelphia. Although the chain declined to comment on sales figures, Pet Shop weekly dollar volume is about $630 per week at Kenilworth, and about $570 at Woodcliff Lake, trade observers said. The departments, containing 600 stockkeeping units of foods, supplies and accessories, were positioned in the last third of the traffic pattern and set between the juice aisle on the left and household cleaning items on the right. Pet foods are merchandised on two sides of the aisle in 120 feet of gondolas in the front of the section. General merchandise is set in two 32-foot runs of gondola shelving placed toward the rear. These products are displayed from pegboards run along the top half of the gondola.
An overhead marker sign, Pet Shop, clearly demarcates the department, making it distinct from other grocery sections. Other accents include a pet information endcap, located on the end of the aisle. The information center contains a television monitor with videocassette player to play tapes supplied by Purina on the care of animals. Books, priced at $5.99, are merchandised on wire racks located on the lower half of the endcap.
Literature is also offered on the training and raising of different pets, such as kittens, puppies, tropical birds and turtles. To generate impulse purchases, A&P cross-merchandises toys and rawhide items on either side of the information kiosk. A slant-back shipper of Hartz Mountain flea and tick collars, in single-count packages retailing at $2.99, was cross-promoted there.
Cat books also are integrated next to J-hooked cat leashes. The merchandise and selection contained in the Pet Shop concept is a third larger than the merchandise found at conventional A&P pet sections. Inventory includes leashes; collars; small animal, fish and bird supplies; chew and rawhide bones; three sizes of pet carriers, beds and other accessories.
Chain leads, tie-downs, small treats, litter scoops and toys are J-hooked on pegboards running along the top half of the 3-foot- high gondolas on the right.
The chain prices its pet products at all four stores "against the key competition in the area to be competitive with large pet superstores," said the observers.