PET CARE SURVEY FINDS GROCERY SALES SLIPPING

SCARSDALE, N.Y. -- Pet owners are shopping more frequently in pet food superstores and discount department stores for their total pet needs, and less often at supermarkets, according to a survey commissioned by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association here.The nationwide survey of 6,500 households found that while supermarkets are still the primary destination for pet needs, the trade's

SCARSDALE, N.Y. -- Pet owners are shopping more frequently in pet food superstores and discount department stores for their total pet needs, and less often at supermarkets, according to a survey commissioned by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association here.

The nationwide survey of 6,500 households found that while supermarkets are still the primary destination for pet needs, the trade's grip on the market is loosening.

Fewer shoppers, for example, are turning to supermarkets for their cat food, cat litter, litter boxes, medicines, toys and accessories, according to the study.

Supermarkets actually regained some lost ground with dog food purchases, but consumers are increasingly turning to alternative formats for other dog supplies.

According to the survey, price, quality, selection and cleanliness are some of the reasons more consumers are turning to superstores.

While the percentages of people who buy specific pet supply items in the supermarket are only going down slightly, the number of consumers shopping in the pet food superstores has doubled and tripled in just a few years," she said.

According to the survey, 70% of cat owners said they purchase their cat food at the supermarket, down from 72% in the previous survey in 1992, and a 10% drop from 1990. At the same time, 29% of cat owners bought food in discounters, up from 25% in 1992, and 16% in 1990, and 10% of consumers bought their cat food in a pet food warehouse or superstore, up from 4% in 1992, and 2% in 1990.

Supermarkets fared slightly better when it came to dog food, with 67% of households purchasing dog food in supermarkets, up from 62% in 1992, but still below the 75% in 1990.

Almost a quarter of consumers, 24%, now buy their dog food at discounters, up from 22% in 1992 and 17% in 1990. Only 8% of households bought dog food at pet food warehouses or superstores, down from 9% in 1992, but still higher than the 4% in 1990.

The research did not determine why dog food sales increased in supermarkets and declined at the superstores. Most dog owners (52%), however, said they consider grocery stores to be the most convenient place to buy dog food. About two in five said they believe that grocery stores offer the best selection, price and quality for dog food.

The leading retail alternatives named were discount stores for price, pet food superstores for selection and veterinarians for quality. Discount stores also were expected to be the most convenient and offer the best prices for "other supplies."

The study found that most cat owners (67%, down from 72% in 1992) still find the grocery store to be the most convenient place to buy cat food. Many also believe that grocery stores offer the best selection, price and quality of cat food, but relative to 1992, grocery store ratings for cat food declined in all areas. The decline was especially significant in selection, where supermarkets' rating exhibited a 14% decrease to 41%.

The survey found that since 1992, pet superstores have made gains among cat owners, and are perceived as having the best selections of flea/tick products, health items, other supplies and, to a somewhat lesser extent, food.

The study is the fourth in a series of pet owner surveys commissioned by APPMA since 1988. The survey was conducted during February and March 1994 by NFO Research, Greenwich, Conn., among more than 6,500 households with and without pets nationwide.

APPMA is a trade association with more than 380 members.