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The Next Threat to Independent Pet Retailers Might Be Other Independents

Independent grocery stores are sometimes hesitant to compete in the pet category, but IGA is encouraging its stores to get into the pet game.


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Could the next big threat to the independent pet retailer be the independent grocer? Perhaps, if the Independent Grocers Alliance (IGA), a grocery brand based in Chicago, is able to encourage its stores to start finally going after pet product dollars with gusto. 

According to Pat Patterson, a category manager and team leader with Nestlé Purina—as quoted in an article on IGA’s website—independent grocery chains are often reluctant to invest in earnest in the pet category, figuring that between the big-box specialty stores, mass marketers, Amazon and Chewy, why bother?

But given the profitability of the category, IGA stores have much to gain by stepping up their pet game, he asserted. 

“…Pet is growing in grocery across most demographics in nearly every part of the country in both brick-and-mortar and online,” Patterson said. “And it’s a category that is driven around emotion and affection, which makes it tailor made for IGA’s locally owned, community-focused stores. Now we just need to find the right mix of assortment, marketing and merchandising to help IGA retailers become the local pet care destination.”

This week, IGA, which runs similarly to a branded franchise in which the stores are individually owned and operated, launched a webinar series devoted to helping IGA stores grow their pet business. The first installation of the “Building Pet Care Profit” webinar, lead by Patterson and IGA CEO John Ross, started the process of providing IGA stores with the strategies they need to capture their share of the pet market. 

There is no way to know how many IGA stores will heed Ross and Patterson’s call to get aggressive about their pet product sales. But there are 6,000 IGA stores in 30 countries, so it’s a piece of industry intel worth noting. In fact, independent pet stores that are located in the vicinity of an IGA might want to shop its aisles in the coming months to survey the potential competition. 

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