TAMPA, Fla. -- Supermarkets won't be able to capitalize on the expanding pet food and accessories business unless they have variety and marketing help from suppliers.
"I see nothing but a good future if we all adapt and learn to market, not sell," said Loyd Tomlinson, vice president of general merchandise for Kash n' Karry Food Stores here, at the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association's executive seminar meeting.
"I'm very excited about the pet industry and the future in front of all of us. It's a growing category," Tomlinson told the group of pet merchandise suppliers.
The first thing for suppliers to realize, he said, is that supermarket buyers and merchandisers are not pet experts. "I'm responsible for about 40 different categories. I don't understand all about pet supplies.
"We realize that we're going to lose some market share out there [with all the new competition]. What we are looking for and what we need to do is learn to expand our categories," he said. "And in expanding our categories we need variety, not duplication.
"I'm not talking about adding 25 different shampoos. I'm talking about the things you see out there that are new and different. I'm talking about the treat business, which is increasing, toys, chews varieties, and items such as toothbrushes, breath sprays and vitamins."
As an example of pets' potential, Tomlinson said, only 3% of cat owners are now giving their pets vitamins. However, there are 62 million cats in the country. "What an opportunity," he said. "Think about four bottles a year at $4 each. That's a way to grow our business."
For the supermarket pet business to grow, Tomlinson asserted, suppliers and retailers have to understand the customer and realize that 80% of today's shoppers are cross-shopping.
"So packaging, the type of displays, targeting displays, size of cards, a lot of things like that are going to be very important," he said. "People have predetermined shopping patterns. And if we don't have the marketing behind products, we're not going to win. It's as simple as that."