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Big Box Stores Continue To Poach Veterinary Hospital Sales

0 Comments Posted by Alyssa Noonan in General, Industry Trends, Pet Trends, Veterinary Marketing, Veterinary Medicine on Tuesday, July 16th, 2013.

Back in 2011, our Big Box Stores Poaching Veterinary Hospital Pharmacy Sales blog discussed the low cost/high volume sales of veterinary products spreading like wildfire through stores like Wal-Mart, Walgreens, etc.—and how veterinary pharmacy sales were being choked off as a result.

Now, two years later, even more stores are in on the action…

Reporter Alison Grant (cleveland.com) stated that Target’s PetRx program launched in the fall of 2010 with 35 stores. Within two years, they had expanded to 700 stores. Walgreens, she reported, “includes pets under the family version of its Prescription Savings Club. And Costco, Wal-Mart, Pet Smart and other retailers are also vying for a piece of a market that is projected to reach $9.3 billion by 2015, according to a report from the consumer research firm Packaged Facts.”

In a country where pet owners spent 800 million on Valentine presents for their furry friends (marketresearch.com), evidence reveals what we already know: pets are viewed as family, and industry retailers are incorporating that sentiment into profit (making all the family needs readily available). From heartworm meds to actual prescriptions, what once spelled veterinary exclusivity now lines the shelves of Big Box Stores— along with cheap pricing made available through amped up buying power, square footage and the obvious  perks of big chain buying.

Take Kroger, for example. This supermarket retail chain has more than 2400 stores (in 31 states) and as of last year, they offer prescription pet meds at all of them.  And we’re not just talking about those specific medications used by humans as well as pets. According to MSN, Kroger fills all your pet-specific medication needs.

As a pet owner, I readily admit to buying all of my pets’ meds directly from our veterinarian. I love a bargain as much as the next guy, but I am weary of buying second rate products.  I can’t help but consider:

  • Quality: Is the product genuine? Is the expiration date valid? Has it been stored at proper temperatures? Might I really be getting a human generic? My vet guarantees her products; credibility means everything.
  • Guidance: When my vet opens a package and demonstrates its application—or better yet administers the first dose (and saves me from wrestling with an unhappy animal), I have peace-of-mind and gratitude. I would never trust a “Big Box Store” pharmacist to explain my pet’s medication.  Medical advice matters.
  • Follow-up:  I count on the open communication and follow-up I get from my vet. She wants to make sure the drug is working and she monitors accordingly. Pretty sure once I pay at Wal-Mart, the ‘event’ is over.

But many pet owners are running for the bargain. So, the question is obvious: When product sales amount to 25% (or more) of revenue for most veterinary practices… how can you compete? Stay tuned for our next blog: Big Box Stores Continue to Poach Veterinary Hospital Sales, Part II for specific marketing tips!

~Carol S. Rothchild

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