As Americans spend more than ever on their furry friends, Walmart is getting pet-smart with products and services, including an expanded fleet of in-store veterinary clinics and an online pet pharmacy.
Starting Tuesday, customers will be able to fill pet prescriptions - not only for dogs and cats, but also horses and livestock - online at WalmartPetRx.com and have them delivered to their doorstep. Walmart is also ramping up its in-store vet clinics, bringing them to 100 stores around the country by the end of the year. These clinics, which are already in 21 Walmart locations, will offer services such as vaccines, standard exams and care for minor illnesses.
The world's biggest retailer is cashing in on the rising wave of pet spending, which doubled between 2005 and 2018, reaching an all-time high last year of $72.5 billion, according to a study from the American Pet Products Association. This year, spending is projected to reach $75.3 billion, and research suggests millennials are fueling the increase.
More millennials own pets than does any other demographic, 70 percent according to a 2018 study from TD Ameritrade. Millennials are also shifting the culture around pet ownership: they're more likely to consider pets 'fur babies' and more likely to drop money on higher-end products and discretionary items such as pet clothes. On average, millennial dog owners spend nearly $1,300 a year on their canine companions, the study found.
"We know this generation is willing to pay more for quality products and services to improve the health and well-being of their pets," Bob Vetere, chief executive of the American Pet Products Association said in a news release accompanying the study. "Today more than ever, pet owners view their pets as irreplaceable members of their families and lives."
The biggest source of pet spending is food, with owners dropping more than $30 billion on chow last year. In particular, sales of fresh and organic pet food have skyrocketed, growing more than 70 percent in the past three years, according to data from Nielsen. Premium pet foods are now more popular than generics.
"We anticipate steady growth in the pet food category thanks to opportunities that reside in specialized diets, targeting the aging pet population and pets with unique dietary needs," Vetere said in a statement. "The availability of fresh food options and subscription delivery programs is also expected to increase spending in this category."
Walmart has tried to capitalize on the trend by expanding its selection of wholesome pet foods, adding more than 100 new brands online in the past year. The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company has also developed health-conscious pet foods for its private label brands, including Pure Balance and Golden Rewards.
Veterinary costs are the second-biggest source of pet spending, totaling more than $18 billion last year according to the APPA study. More owners are investing in pet insurance, and they're taking their pets to the vet more frequently thanks to falling visit costs. Walmart has seen the growth in pet-care spending firsthand - in the past year, Walmart's online sales of dog and cat-related health-care products ballooned 60 percent, according to a company spokeswoman.
Orders through the online pharmacy totaling $35 or more will be eligible for free two-day shipping. By the end of the month, Walmart will also bring the 30 most popular pet medications to its 4,500 in-store pharmacies, making them available for same-day pickup.
Washington Post News Service (DC)
5/7/2019 11:15:35 AM Central Daylight Time