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Shoppers lap up all-natural offerings for their pets

BY Barbara White-Sax

Pet products, much like children’s products, have proven to be recession resistant. Sales of all pet products and services rose 5% in 2009 to reach $53 billion, according to Packaged Facts, and were especially strong in the mass market.

While dog food had the best increases in dollar sales in mass outlets, Packaged Facts predicted an uptick in demand for higher-priced pet supplies during 2010. The market research firm found that even those pet owners who may have cut back in other areas continued to seek out small indulgences for their pets.

“During 2009, sales of dog biscuits/treats and cat snacks rose 8% and 15%, respectively, according to [SymphonyIRI Group,] with cat snacks posting double-digit unit and volume gains of 17% and 11%, respectively,” said the Packaged Facts report.

Even in lean times, pet owners are willing to spend on their furry friends. According to Packaged Facts’ February 2010 pet owner poll, 19% of pet owners strongly disagreed that they are “spending less on pet products these days because of the economy.”

In some locations, CVS has devoted a 4-ft. area in the general merchandise section to pet products. The section includes pet food and treats, as well as private-label pet beds and accessories from MerchSource. The chain also is stocking private-label FidoFlex glucosamine and chondroitin supplements for pets.

Packaged Facts’ study said a growing population of older pets has led to greater demand for specialized products targeting joint, coronary, cognitive and immune system-related conditions. Analysts at the firm believed that pet owners will do “whatever it takes to keep their pets healthy and happy for as long as possible.” The trend, they said, promises “a rosy outlook for all things pet-health related,” whether it’s supplements, natural foods or heated pet beds.

Procter & Gamble recently signed an agreement to acquire Natura Pet Products, the Davis, Calif.-based manufacturer of several natural pet food products. P&G said the move enables the company to expand into the “attractive holistic and naturals” segment of the category, and complement its Iams and Eukanuba brands. Natura brands, which currently is sold in pet specialty stores, is likely to migrate to mass channels.

Loving Pets’ president Eric Abbey said the drug channel is beginning to recognize “that there is a lot of opportunity in the pet category for natural snacks and pet accessories. Pet owners with the right demographic to spend money in the category are already shopping the channel and are open to impulse purchases,” he said. “For empty nesters, pets are their replacement kids. These customers have the disposable income, and they are willing to spend the money maintaining the longevity of their pet’s health.”

Walgreens is carrying Loving Pets’ Bella Bowls, stainless steel pet food bowls that come in four sizes and are available in 10 colors; the bowls retail for $3.99 to $4.99. Abbey said Loving Pets has had great success with the bowls in the drug channel, and with in-and-out promotions on its all-natural dog treats. The company worked with Walgreens on in-and-outs with its Gourmet All Natural Wraps and Vita-Hide rawhide and chicken treats, and it is planning on introducing its newest treat, Vegitopia—another all-natural, healthy and affordable treat—into the drug chain, according to Abbey. That new product also will be available in a clip strip and other merchandising options.

Also new at Walgreens, Target and Walmart is Allstar Products Group’s Emery Cat Board, a toy/grooming tool designed to groom cats’ nails while they play. The board, which includes a cat toy and bag of catnip, retails for $19.99.

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NACDS puts a new spin on Meet the Market

BY Michael Johnsen

SAN DIEGO This year the National Association of Chain Drug Stores introduced two new features to its Meet the Market format. First, NACDS hosted a Meet the Market Presentation Template webinar twice prior to Meet the Market, in which NACDS introduced a meeting template that succinctly captured all of the information retailers typically use to evaluate a new product or company.

Also new to Meet the Market were the booths of 10 service companies — trade media and professional education, merchandising consultants and marketing/media information companies — which afforded an opportunity for new and smaller suppliers to meet with these organizations.

“New companies have a need not only to meet with retailers, obviously, they have a need for their business,” noted Jim Whitman, NACDS SVP meetings and conferences. Another ongoing improvement is the productivity within each meeting, Whitman added. “We keep refining the match, the appointments,” he said.

This year, the Meet the Market format — in which smaller and new suppliers have 10-minute meetings with their category buyers — represented more than 8,000 face-to-face pre-arranged appointments.

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Retail clinic growth slowing down? Not a chance

BY Antoinette Alexander

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT The news that Target is looking to expand its retail-based clinic business this year is yet one more indicator that reports of the demise of retail clinic growth have been greatly exaggerated.

(THE NEWS: Target to expand its retail clinic presence. For the full story, click here)

As the article states, Target, which opened its first clinic in 2006, is looking to open up eight new locations this September. It already operates 28 locations in Minnesota and Maryland.

It wasn’t so long ago — April to be exact — that CVS Caremark’s MinuteClinic indicated that it could double its current number of clinics in five years.

Why the growth? Well, aside from the aging population and a shortage of primary care physicians, a major catalyst is healthcare reform, which will mean that 32 million people who currently are uninsured will have healthcare coverage. With emergency rooms already overflowing, and primary care physicians already over-extended, having a retail clinic nearby where patients can receive convenient, quality and affordable health care will only become increasingly important.

Meanwhile, RediClinic, which has 22 clinics in H-E-B stores in Houston and Austin, Texas, is cranking up its marketing efforts and has tapped former Duane Reade executive Jeff Thompson as VP marketing. Thompson will be responsible for RediClinic’s consumer and partner marketing activities, including developing and implementing strategic customer acquisition/retention programs, new product delivery and brand strategy.

Thompson most recently served as VP marketing for Duane Reade.

Clearly, there continues to be significant growth opportunities for clinics — both in terms of the number of clinic locations and the scope of services offered within the clinics. As mentioned earlier, there are 32 million reasons why the growth will be quite dramatic.

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