LOS ALTOS, CALIF. — An update from Placer.ai, a consumer behavior data and insight provider, showed some pet retailers have recovered from pandemic impacts faster than others.

Despite the fact that pet food and treat producers as well as pet retailers remained open during COVID-19 as essential businesses, many consumers opted for omnichannel options to avoid in-person contact in the height of the pandemic. This caused a steep decrease in foot traffic in pet stores — and for other in-store retailers across the country — and prompted these businesses to adapt with better digital capabilities, curbside pickup services and e-commerce platforms.

In March 2020, major pet retailers including Pet Supplies Plus, Pet Supermarket, Pet Valu, Petco, PetSmart and Petland all experienced double-digit percentage declines in foot traffic compared to the previous year, with Pet Supplies Plus seeing foot traffic down 21.5% and Petland seeing a 35.3% decrease.

Moving forward, the situation gradually improved for most of these outlets through January 2021, except for Pet Valu, which was still down nearly 50%, and Petland, with 9.3% less foot traffic compared to the previous year.

Pet Valu announced in November 2020 that it would cease operations at all 358 stores in the United States, citing a “severe impact from COVID-19.” In December, Pet Supplies Plus acquired roughly 40 previous Pet Valu stores in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia with plans to reopen them under its own brand in early 2021.

Pet Supplies Plus, Petco and PetSmart have seen “impressive increases” to in-store foot traffic from March to May 2021, compared with pre-pandemic levels during these months in 2019. Foot traffic for Pet Supplies Plus was up 23.8% in May, Petco was up 21.2%, and PetSmart was up 15.1%. Pet Supermarket’s foot traffic was flat compared to 2019 numbers, and Petland continues to recover, still down 9.1% in May.

For nearly all these pet retail outlets, except Petland, the rate of customer visits exceeded the rate of change in customers between March and May 2021, suggesting a rise in new customers overshadowed by an increase in visits from customers.

“On average, visits per customer increased by 3.5% for both Pet Supplies Plus and Petco, and by 5.3% for PetSmart,” wrote Shira Petrack, marketing content manager at Placer.ai. “In the case of Pet Supermarket and Petland, visits per customer increased by 0.72% and 0.76%, respectively – not a dramatic boost, nevertheless in line with the general trend.”

Placer.ai attributed these trends to an increase in pet spending, as many pet owners spent more time at home and became more inclined to purchase more treats, accessories and supplies.

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