What are the effects of COVID-19 on pet stores?

To say these times is ‘unprecedented’ is an understatement. Never in the history of retailing has such an event occurred. There have been events similar, say the Great Recession, but the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic is at a scale never seen before.

Of the primary concern, especially early into the outbreak, were questions over the availability of pet food. Given that there were severe shortages of paper products, staple food, and cleaning supplies in grocery stores, it was logical to question if the same scarcity would be seen in the pet department and pet retailers.

Fortunately, this hasn’t materialized. Manufacturers such as Purina were quick to send out emails notifying pet owners that the supply would remain steady. A quick glance in the pet food aisle of major grocery retailers shows this is true. Even walking the aisles of Pet Supplies Plus, the shelves appear at the usual stock levels.

Curb-Side Pickup Gains Momentum

With quarantine and social distancing orders put into place quickly, retailers were quick to adopt curb-side pickup options for customers. When walking the aisles no longer became feasible due to staffing issues or local regulations, call ahead and online or mobile ordering with curb-side options were quickly put into place across many chains. It is best to call your local pet store to see what contact-free options they are offering.

Online Ordering Increases Dramatically

Several big chains have been offering ‘to your doorstep’ delivery of pet essentials for several years. Pet owners have continually increased the rate at which they order pet supplies on line for home delivery. Staying home, and away from large gatherings is proving to be an effective measure to combat the spread. This has caused even the smallest pet stores to consider moving online if they currently are not. The Wall Street Journal notes on March 15 ” The retailers that are likely to fare better as Americans adjust to the current outbreak are those that invested in online logistics or have the ability to serve shoppers safely if the illness becomes widespread”. I found this interesting product, it’s a clever play on a human treat: Barkaron, a macaron for dogs!

Subscription Boxes Become The Ticket

For years, pet owners have relied on BarkBox and Chewy for a constant supply of new and exciting toys and treats. New entrants into this space include Pet Plate which is a fresh direct-to-consumer pet food subscription which was featured on Shark Tank. Giving people the ability to continue to provide food, toys, and treats during the time when it is safer inside, could revive the subscription box industry. The downside is that you may not know what fun is coming in the box each month, but isn’t that half the fun?

Veterinary Telehealth Increasingly An Option

With restrictions placed on veterinary offices, and pet owners less likely to venture out, just like Teladoc and MDLive offer health advice to humans, so too do Ask.Vet, VetNOW, and DVM360 offer ways to consult a live veterinarian. Royal Canin was offering free access for a limited time to assist pet owners.

To access the service, pet owners can connect at royalcanin.com/us/coronavirus-and-pets or can text chatnow to 67076. Pet owners will be able to ask any health-related questions ranging from ‘My dog has a wound. How do I know if it is infected?’ to ‘My cat is vomiting, is this an emergency?’

https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/royal-canin-to-offer-free-247-virtual-vet-chat-to-all-pet-owners-301053875.html

Grooming At Home Becomes An Option

Pet owners are now taking matters into their own hands, literally, as they began to groom pets at home. Several Instagram feeds featured cutely disastrous first attempts at grooming. A word of caution, though. Sharp objects in untrained hands can be dangerous to your pet! Grooming supplies are readily available on Amazon and other retailers. Wahl Corporation has posted videos to YouTube with techniques and methods to keep you and your pet safe, and your pet looking great!

Check out the Barkbath Dual Use which doubles as a portable grooming system and a deep cleaning appliance for carpets.

The effects of the pandemic are only beginning to show. This could be the start of permanent changes in everyone’s lives. From shopping to grooming to healthcare, there will be a ‘new normal’ for it all. Stay safe.

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