ORLANDO, Fla. (FNS) -- A new Albertson's store here goes up against the competitive environment of pet superstores and on-line Internet retailers with a splashy, expanded pet section.
The most noticeable differences in the department at this store at 12981 South Orange Blossom Trail compared with other Albertson's units are the signage, graphics and decor. The 20-foot octagon metal sign hanging from the ceiling features realistic pictures of children with their cats and dogs. Pet graphics also dangle from the rotating sign. Pictures of dogs and cats in a yard are also painted on the walls of the 1,000-square-foot department. Large brown paw prints are painted on the floor of the section.
The pet section is noticeable at the front corner of the store, near the cash registers and the video department, and conveys a "store-within-a-store" atmosphere. "We're trying to make it [the 59,000-square-foot store] one-stop shopping," said Bill Tollett, regional manager of Albertson's in Maitland, Fla.
Although all Albertson's new Plaza format stores -- now about 32 nationwide -- put similar emphasis on pet care, this is the first in Florida with the unique signage and an additional 4 feet devoted to books on pet care. "They [the books] are readily available information for the customer who has a desire and a need for it," Tollett said.
Although he lauds the efforts of Albertson's and other supermarket chains in improving pet care departments, Don Stuart, partner at Cannondale Associates in Wilton, Conn., said the pet care competition may be too much to handle. "They're trying to brand them as pet centers, but they're still not pet stores. They still can't compete, not even in the breadth of food supply," he said.
Supermarkets are also facing new competition from on-line pet care retailers, as well as the traditional pet superstores, Stuart pointed out. "There is infinite choice [for consumers] and zero inventory for on-line retailers. They are putting the squeeze on core retailers like Albertson's. And pet departments in supermarkets are competing more aggressively than ever because they are competing with on-line pet [stores]," he said.
Meanwhile, the Albertson's store added more pet toy stockkeeping units, compared with traditional Albertson's stores, to compete with pet superstores. For dogs, there are 16 feet of rawhide bones and toys, 8 feet of shampoos and flea sprays, and 4 feet of brushes, collars and leashes. Dog products are positioned across from the frozen-food department, Cat toys, dishes and treats are featured in a 4-foot section of the 56 feet of space devoted to cat food and products.
Higher-ticket items are also expected to do well here. Pet carrying cases, priced from $20 to $70, are a main focal point and line the top shelf of almost every aisle.