LUCKY/SAVON IS FEATURING PET CENTRAL STORE-IN-STORE

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. -- Shoppers in search of goldfish for the Persian New Year can get just what they want at their local grocery store here.That's because Lucky Stores' new unit here has a Pet Central, which features a 480-gallon aquarium housing a wide variety of both tropical fish and goldfish, along with food and supplies, including tanks and filtration systems. Goldfish are one of nature's

MISSION VIEJO, Calif. -- Shoppers in search of goldfish for the Persian New Year can get just what they want at their local grocery store here.

That's because Lucky Stores' new unit here has a Pet Central, which features a 480-gallon aquarium housing a wide variety of both tropical fish and goldfish, along with food and supplies, including tanks and filtration systems. Goldfish are one of nature's seven symbols that must be represented for the Persian New Year, known as Nowrouz.

Pet Central is a new store-within-a-store concept featured in all the new Lucky/Savon combo units, according to a store-level source. Along with fish merchandise, it carries a broad assortment of cat and dog food and supplies. Officials at the southern California division of Lucky Stores, headquartered in Buena Park, Calif., declined to comment on Pet Central. Lucky is a subsidiary of Salt Lake City-based American Stores Co.

The department is a classic example of a supermarket taking on the category killers while accommodating an increasingly multicultural consumer base, SN found during an in-store visit.

"The fish are selling very well," said a store source, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "It's been amazing, especially during the Persian holiday.

"We also sell betas, fighting fish, in little bowls. When the store opened [in midwinter], we ordered 700, and within two-and-a-half weeks they were gone. We buy premium fish and pay a little more, because we want the best," the employee added.

The Mission Viejo store, which is the only unit that has an aquarium, sells 35 varieties of tropical fish and several kinds of goldfish, including tiger barb, black skirt tetra, neon tetra, mixed sword tail, domain molly, silver molly, mixed platti, fancy guppy, Texas cichlida, tiger red oscar, mixed African cichlida, comet, oranda and different types of cory.

"The aquarium is divided into 28 units. Four tanks are 30-gallon while the rest are 15-gallon," the source told SN.

"A lot of people want comet goldfish to feed to their turtles or to oscars. Customers also buy them to start [an aquarium]. They put four or five in a tank," the source continued. A tropical fish retails from 89 cents to $5.49.

The department is run by employees with some expertise in raising fish. They provide customers with written information on what to do once they take their purchases home.

Like the Pet Central at the Garden Grove store on Harbor Blvd. in Anaheim, Calif., the one at the Lucky's in Mission Viejo carries a wide range of cat and dog food and supplies, as well as hamster, bird, rabbit and guinea pig food and accessories.

SN visited both locations and found the store-within-a-store cut out of a side of each of two Center Store gondolas. Pet Central occupied about half of each gondola on either side of one Center Store aisle, and was highlighted with a large sign.

The section is capped off with additional merchandising displays. Dog food selections include Lucky private label as well as Pedigree, Alpo, Cycle, Value Wise, Friskies, Purina, Chuck Wagon, Gravy Train and Kibbles 'n Bits.

Also offered are Lucky's brand cat food, along with Purina, Friskies, Whiskas, 9 Lives, Tender Vittles, Kal-Kan, Sheba and Alpo. Pet dishes, litter pans, grooming implements, carriers, toys and treats, bird and rabbit cages, bird feeders and scratching posts are available as well.

Customers can choose from a wide variety of sizes of cat and dog food, from small cans to 22-pound bags. Even larger bags of cat and dog food -- up to 44 pounds -- and 40-pound bags of cat litter were available in the Max Pak aisles of these Lucky stores.

According to a store-level source at Garden Grove, Lucky first rolled out the combo stores in August, along with Pet Central. The store-within-a-store was set up "to combat the PetSmarts and other places that cater to pets."