Pets Are Focus of Latest K-VA-T Club

ABINGDON, Va. First came kids. Then came wine. Now pets are the focus of a new loyalty club at K-VA-T Food Stores. The month-old Paws & Claws is an opt-in program at K-VA-T's Food City-banner stores that includes coupons, an annual birthday card, contests and sweepstakes, and a quarterly newsletter. Slated to launch in July, the four-page newsletter will address such subjects as pet health and nutrition.

ABINGDON, Va. — First came kids. Then came wine. Now pets are the focus of a new loyalty club at K-VA-T Food Stores.

The month-old Paws & Claws is an opt-in program at K-VA-T's Food City-banner stores that includes coupons, an annual birthday card, contests and sweepstakes, and a quarterly newsletter.

Slated to launch in July, the four-page newsletter will address such subjects as pet health and nutrition. K-VA-T will produce the publication in-house and distribute it via the Web, email and direct mail. Although the recent pet food recall didn't affect K-VA-T as much as it did other supermarkets, according to K-VA-T's loyalty director Ron Bonacci, the upcoming newsletter will address food safety.

Pet food manufacturers will serve as advisors and will be able to contribute content information.

“Our goal is to introduce customers to a friendly place to shop for their pet needs,” Bonacci told SN.

K-VA-T kicked off the program with a consumer sweepstakes that ran last month, in which it awarded $500 worth of free pet food. Customers could enter by submitting a photo of their pet. Aimee MacIlveen, of Knoxville, Tenn., won for the photo of her dog, Cash.

The new pet club is part of a major new focus on loyalty clubs at K-VA-T. Two other programs have been launched in the last year: one focusing on kids, the other on wine. All are the result of a directive from Steve Smith, K-VA-T's president and chief executive officer, according to Bonacci.

“Steve Smith challenged us to find ways to become better in our communities, service our customers' needs and be a part of the neighborhood,” Bonacci said. “He suggested clubs.”

A pet club made sense because of the growing number of pet owners in the nation. About 63% of U.S. households, or 69 million homes, own a pet, up from 56% in 1988, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Greenwich, Conn. And about 45% of U.S. households today own more than one pet. About two-thirds of food store customers own a pet, according to Bob Vetere, APPMA president.

Food City shoppers can sign up for Paws & Claws in-store or online. The application asks them for their name, address, email, loyalty card number, and names and birthdays of pets.

Unlike loyalty clubs in which a member gets a cash or other type of reward if they meet a certain spending level, Paws & Claws provides coupons and other promotional offers regardless of spending.

“We want to engage shoppers and make it conducive for them to come back and shop with us,” he said.

Paws & Claws joins a growing number of other new pet programs in the food retailing industry. Compton, Calif.-based Ralphs, for instance, runs a rewards-based pet club. For each $100 members spend on pet purchases, they receive a coupon for $9 off their next pet purchase of $9 or more. For every coupon redeemed, Ralphs donates $1 to a local humane society or to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

“Every time you use Ralphs Club to buy pet products, you're not only making a difference on your grocery bill, but in the life of an injured animal or homeless animal,” the Ralphs website reads.

Retailers are also catering to pet lovers in others ways. Shoppers can use Kroger's personal finance service to get pet insurance. H.E. Butt Grocery Co. also recently introduced pet insurance with monthly rates starting as low as $10.95, according to the company's website.

Publix and PetsIncredible have partnered to provide 400,000 free copies of dog and cat training videos to people who adopt pets from local shelters in the retailer's market areas in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee. The videos cover such topics as house training, chewing, jumping and nutrition. Each video comes with coupons for such brands as Iams and Purina that are only redeemable at Publix stores. PetsIncredible, a division of Animal Planet Media Enterprises, is a pet training organization that works to reduce the number of pets that are euthanized for behavior-related issues.

Likewise, Hy-Vee's website has a link to Purina.com's pet podcasts — audio or video programs that can be downloaded and played on a computer or a portable media player. The podcasts feature veterinarians and pet lovers discussing topics such as animal training, pet surgery and behavioral theories.

The food industry is not alone. Many other types of businesses are developing ways to win the loyalty of pet owners. Take Midwest Airlines, which offers frequent-flier miles for pets and recently launched a “goodie” bag for pets traveling with their owners. The pack includes Fido Friendly, a travel magazine for owners and their dogs; dog shampoo and conditioner; and a pouch-size serving of dog food.

Such efforts can go a long way to turning pet owners into repeat customers, said Vetere of the APPMA.

“Pet owners are generally a passionate group, so once they believe you have their pets' best interest at heart, it's a hook,” said Vetere.

The pet-loving trend is not likely to fade anytime soon in light of the massive Baby Boomer demographic.

“As their kids leave for college, Boomers will probably turns to pets more,” Vetere said.

Profitable Pets

GREENWICH, Conn. — K-VA-T's new pet club comes at a time when pet spending is at an all-time high. Americans are predicted to spend $40.8 billion on their pets this year, up from $38.5 billion in 2006 and $21 billion in 1996, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association here. Food stores are in a good position to benefit, as food accounts for the largest pet expenditures.

CATEGORY 2006 SPENDING 2007 SPENDING* % CHANGE
Food $15.4 billion $16.1 billion 4.8
Supplies/OTC Meds $9.3 billion $9.9 billion 6.5
Veterinary Care $9.2 billion $9.8 billion 6.7
Live Animal Purchases $1.9 billion $2.1 billion 8.4
Other Services $2.7 billion $2.9 billion 6.5
*estimated
Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association

Food City to Unleash New Promotions

ABINGDON, Va. — K-VA-T's new pet club complements the retailer's newly enhanced commitment to pet owners.

Paws & Claws will be promoted at an array of new pet-friendly promotions at K-VA-T's Food City stores. One of the largest will take place this summer in a partnership with Del Monte Foods' 9 Lives brand.

Food City stores will take part in the “Morris' Million Cat Rescue,” a nationwide mobile marketing effort to find homes for 1 million homeless cats.

The “Million Cat Rescue” nationwide tour will visit 10 Food City parking lots. Each event will include a welcome video from American Idol's Randy Jackson, as well as a mobile adoption center, kids' activities, a photo area and a cat care center.

K-VA-T will provide Paws & Claws sign-up forms at each event.

“The pet club gives us the opportunity to tie in with programs like these,” said Ron Bonacci, K-VA-T's loyalty director.

K-VA-T also plans to host in-store visits by local animal shelters to showcase pets that are up for adoption.
— C.A.