Petco Barking Up the Right Tree

The rise in retail foot traffic and consumer demand in the pet sector has been a recurring theme since the early days of the pandemic. With Petco building on the success of its pet wellness and omnichannel ecosystem, we dove into the recent visit data and took a closer look at the chain’s launch into smaller, rural markets. 

Pandemic Pets Prevail 

Pet adoptions surged in the early stages of the pandemic, driving significant foot traffic to Petco. As the majority of these pets remain in their new homes, overall visits to Petco are continuing on their positive trend in comparison to 2019. And as consumers spend less time at home, heading back to school and the office, spending on toys and other supplies to ease that separation has increased – further contributing to Petco’s strong foot traffic numbers. 

Year-over-three-year (Yo3Y) visits in July 2022 were up 19.2%, the largest Yo3Y growth since April 2022 (25.7%). Analysis of weekly visits confirms the upward trend, as Yo3Y visits in the first week of August rose to 23.5% and remained relatively stable at 21.3% for the week of August 8th, 2022. 

Year-Over-Year Visits, an Expected Dip

Year-over-year (YoY) monthly visits were down for Petco in four out of the previous five months we analyzed, most recently down by 7.1% in July 2022. This has more to do with the comparison to the brand’s impressive performance in 2021 – and its particularly strong July 2022 – than any prevailing headwinds for Petco. 

And weekly YoY visits in August are picking up. Since the week of July 18th, 2022, visits were down just 3.8% the week of August 8th, 2022. Again, this trend likely reflects tapered retail visits associated with the Delta variant in August 2021, which provide a more favorable comparison for August this year. 

Petco: City to Suburbia

Petco has not shied away from bold moves in the brick-and-mortar space, including a recent partnership with Lowe’s Home Improvement. And over a decade ago, Petco launched Unleashed by Petco – pared down, city-center locations for the urban pet owner. Now, the pet health and wellness retailer is setting its sights on suburban and rural markets, after announcing its intention to test “Small Town Rural” concepts in key strategic locations as part of its long-term priorities.

This past June, Petco opened the first Neighborhood Farm & Pet Supply in suburban Floresville, TX. The new store format aims to serve pet and farm-animal owners in small towns and rural communities. Customers benefit from a curated selection that suits local needs, competitive pricing, same-day delivery, and other convenient services supported by Petco’s vast omnichannel ecosystem. 

According to the COVID Recovery Dashboard, Floresville’s retail foot traffic consistently outperforms the rest of the state. In July 2022 Floresville retail visits were 6.0% above the equivalent month in 2019. By comparison, in July 2022, the state of Texas saw foot traffic 12.0% below pre-pandemic levels.

It’s clear that Petco identified a growing small-town market in Floresville, which has seen a boom in new businesses and residential development, making it a prime location to introduce the new store format. And Floresville’s strong retail visit numbers can also explain why the company has decided to focus its expansion efforts on smaller suburban and rural markets, many of which are currently exhibiting rapid growth while offering a more favorable competitive landscape. 

The Roundup

Positive foot traffic trends continue for Petco as the demand for pets and pet supplies shows no signs of letting up. By expanding into rural markets, the chain has the ability to serve small communities experiencing rapid brick-and-mortar visit growth. 

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