Is Petco really a health and wellness retailer?

Photo: Petco
Oct 09, 2020
Tom Ryan

Health and wellness is a broad opportunity embraced by everyone from CVS to Lululemon and Whole Foods. Petco wants in on the action.

The pet chain announced it is rebranding itself as “Petco, The Health + Wellness Co” from the former “Petco Animal Supplies,” saying the shift reflects its “more than 55-year journey to becoming a health and wellness company.”

Among the steps on that journey was its decision in 2014 to become the first national specialty retailer to discontinue the sale of China-made treats following consumer concerns. In May 2019, Petco likewise became the first to stop selling dog and cat food and treats with artificial ingredients. As an essential retailer during the pandemic, Petco said it has “served as the grocery store, the doctor’s office and the pharmacy for America’s pets, delivering on its promise as a partner to pet parents within a dramatically changed landscape.”

The chain is planning an expansion of pet care services and resources to reinforce its amplified health positioning, including:

  • Expanding its full-service in-store vet hospitals from more than 100 currently to over 140 by January 2021;
  • New and expanded healthcare solutions, including its recently-introduced Vital Care annual insurance program that’s tied to rewards;
  • A redesign of and the Petco app to support health and wellness resources including online appointment booking, curbside pickup and same-day delivery;
  • A newly-launched digital “Right Food Finder” to help pet owners determine optimal foods for their pets’ nutritional needs;
  • Completing the removal of artificial colors, preservatives and flavors from food for aquatic life and small animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs and reptiles by the end of 2021 following the completion of such standards for dogs and cats in 2019.

A major marketing campaign highlighting the chain’s evolution is slated for early 2021.

The rebranding gained heightened attention as Petco at the same time announced it was ending the sale of electronic “shock” collars and launching a #StopTheShock campaign to ban the devices altogether. Petco CEO Ron Coughlin said in a statement, “As a health and wellness company, our mission is focused on improving pet lives and we think selling shock collars does the opposite.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is Petco’s positioning as a health and wellness retailer spot-on or only confusing to consumers? Is the health and wellness opportunity for pet chains most similar to grocery, drug stores or another retailing vertical?

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"Without specifically trained store personnel this goal will not be met – associates are key."

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16 Comments on "Is Petco really a health and wellness retailer?"

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Neil Saunders

In theory, I can see how Petco intersects with health and wellness – especially if it focuses on products that are healthy, nutritious, and help pets stay well. However from a branding perspective, I am not sure that the new name resonates. If they had a tagline to emphasize that they keep pets healthy that would work much better, but health and wellness company is such a generic term that it’s almost meaningless. I think this is an interesting pivot into a growth area but it is a lost branding opportunity.

Ken Morris

Pets are part of the family and I fully support this move by Petco. The pandemic has created a cocooning environment where the family, pets included, are the nucleus of our world. We need to give them the care and feeding they deserve and Petco is reflecting the lifestyle of its customers.

Brett Busconi

I see this lining up most similarly to grocery chains making the same pitch. Petco as a services center and a health and wellness brand makes sense to me. This is an opportunity to differentiate themselves further from PetSmart and I love this positioning.

Richard Hernandez

I remember the tagline “Petco: where the pets go.” I think this new direction is an extension; a way to differentiate against the competition (both online and brick-and-mortar). I just hope that they will be able to tie it all together to communicate a cohesive message (digital, in-store, etc.).

Suresh Chaganti

It is still for pets — right?

Reading the headline I thought they were going to compete in the human wellness space. That would definitely be confusing, not to mention how silly the idea is.

David Leibowitz

It’s differentiating, not confusing. Walk into a Target and you’re offered CVS wellness solutions. Walk into a Kroger, and they have pharmacy and wellness too. And Banfield pet hospitals are already tucked in the back of many PetSmart (a Petco competitor) locations.
The reason is clear on all counts. Selling a bag of kibble or a flea and tick collar is now a commodity purchase that can easily be shopped across a number of grocery, convenience and online channels. Offering wellness services to pet parents is a smart move to keep people coming back to the stores for services they simply can’t get via BOPIS.

Gene Detroyer

I believe the strategy to expand into being a more complete source for pets’ health and wellness is excellent.

“Petco, The Health + Wellness Co” is just bizarre. Branding should say what you mean. How about something simple like “Petco, Your Pet’s Health + Wellness Co” ?

Dave Wendland

Great move by Petco. I would argue that few companies should not reposition themselves as part of the health and wellness ecosystem. In particular, for Petco, pet health is a huge opportunity — further accelerated by the current pandemic. Keeping these family members safe, healthy, and well has become an integral part of daily life. I don’t believe consumers will become confused — rather they will become grateful.

Georganne Bender

If Petco delivers on all of its promises it will technically be a health and wellness retailer. The article, however, didn’t mention that ALL store associates will be well versed in everything healthful for pets, including confident understanding and the ability to recommend over-the-counter treatments. Without specifically trained store personnel this goal will not be met – associates are key.

Brian Cluster

Petco does embody health and wellness for pets. With the recent announcement of the ban of shock collars, they have put another stake in the ground to further cement their industry leadership and positioning with their actions. The concept of health and wellness can be further expanded to the physical, nutritional, and mental health of pets supported by their services, advocacy, and product offering decisions. I agree with several here that a slightly refined and targeted tagline such as ” Petco: the health and wellness company for pets” would help reduce confusion.

Lee Peterson

We just have to refer to the trending hashtag #dogsarenotpeople. We have a hard enough time taking care of ourselves apparently, so it feels pretty out of touch/gimmicky to me. But you know, I’m the RetailWire cynic — I have to feel that way!

Ian Percy

Makes me wonder if you have a dog, Lee. Most of us (though we might not say so out loud) would rather be sick than have our dog sick. Weird, I know. We’d even question the meme that “dogs are not people.” Our dog has kept us sane over the last six months and kept my blood pressure down at the same time. Very talented pooch.

My issue on this Petco thing is that so much toxic crap is out there for our pets that it’s almost impossible to decide what is healthy and what is not. The attitude seems to be – hey, it’s just a dog. cat, fish, etc. So a place where everything is health-curated is just fine with me.

Bindu Gupta

Petco is doing all the right things in the process of rebranding itself as a health and wellness company for pets. The enhanced app, “Right Food Finder,” and “Vital Care” program are all great initiatives and support their primary goal. However the branding itself is a bit confusing as it alludes to be a health and wellness company for EVERYONE and not just pets.

Bindu Gupta

Petco is doing all the right things but they need to rethink their rebranding tagline “Petco, The Health + Wellness Co” to clarify that their focus is still on all pets and they are not expanding health and wellness to humans as well.


This is the right play for Petco but, as others have pointed out, Petco will need to ensure that its associates are capable of providing customers with credible pet health and wellness guidance on products and services. All of the strategy, branding, and product assortments in the world are wasted if retailers aren’t providing stores with the context and training they need to delight customers. This highlights the increasing burden placed on associates — in today’s world, they’re expected to handle the entire customer journey from initial greeting through checkout.

6 months 6 days ago
When I visit Petco, I enter a store with only a couple of employees and virtually no customers. There is zero engagement from the staff until you try to go buy something, even then, it is a little iffy. At checkout at one of the locations I go to which still has the old logo out front (probably not a great performing store) is a dog toy and a sign to squeeze toy for service. If you don’t buy something, you won’t have any interaction with an employee at all. Petco ditched standard commodity branded pet foods a while back (Friskies, Pedigree, etc.) for the highest cost (and higher margin) cleaner ingredient type brands. Problem is, a lot of customers still buy that commodity type pet food and you need foot traffic to support a 20k square foot store, vet services, grooming, etc. You also need foot traffic to “convert to better for your pet pet foods” and if you run them off by discontinuing what they use, you don’t even get the chance to… Read more »
"Without specifically trained store personnel this goal will not be met – associates are key."

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