FRED MEYER PET CENTER TEST LEADING TO CONCEPT ROLLOUT

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Fred Meyer Inc. is about to roll out its Pet Center concept, which the chain began testing here last March.The retailer will open its 12th 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot pet section by the end of the year, with 13 more pet centers slated for larger units next year, confirmed Rob Boley, a spokesman for the chain."Sales have been very strong. We're very happy with the results, happy enough

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Fred Meyer Inc. is about to roll out its Pet Center concept, which the chain began testing here last March.

The retailer will open its 12th 2,000- to 3,000-square-foot pet section by the end of the year, with 13 more pet centers slated for larger units next year, confirmed Rob Boley, a spokesman for the chain.

"Sales have been very strong. We're very happy with the results, happy enough to go from testing a few stores to rolling it out to other locations," said Boley.

The larger pet care set is Fred Meyer's answer to meeting competition from pet superstores. The concept also is an attempt to satisfy the market demand for a wide assortment of pet care items. Pets are getting better care and that is said to have prompted the chain into growing the pet care category.

"Our larger 290- to 350-lineal-foot sections, with their expanded variety, reflect the growth of pet ownership, and the care and attention family pets are getting," said Boley.

More units of killer-category pet stores are a reflection of this trend, said Boley. "And empty-nesters are showering attention on their pets and buying and using more animal accessories and toys."

The large pet centers have been an important addition to the retailer's extensive nonfood mix. The centers' pet supply mix was expanded with 1,200 new stockkeeping units. The total food and pet accessory assortment is now about 2,500 products.

The 32 feet of in-line pet supplies and accessories stocked at Fred Meyer's regular in-line pet department were enlarged to 156 lineal feet in the Pet Centers. Cat and dog food also jumped from 140 lineal feet in the regular grocery aisle sets to 192 lineal feet in the Pet Centers.

Pet Centers are planned for stores with space to accommodate the expanded mix, at a nonfood area, by an alcove or main aisle. These units run between 165,000 and 190,000 square feet.

The product mix is merchandised on shelf tiers and pegged on a series of gondolas with a natural wood trim and lavender color accent. Signs point out the section in the traffic pattern. Under the pet care expansion, beef and pork rawhide chews are displayed in 20 to 28 feet of shelf space, while small animal supplies now run the gamut from items for wild and caged birds to aquatic accessories.

The broader selection of collars and leashes for dogs, cats and lizards also now features "heated rocks for lizards, which is another hot item," observed Boley.

Space for new Pet Centers will come during store resets, by cutting back on building materials in home improvement departments.