San Francisco prides itself on its quirkiness. One of the ways San Francisco tries to keep its “differentness” is by preserving small locally owned businesses by keeping out “formula retail” (what everyone else calls “chains”). But while San Francisco is doing its best to preserve small businesses, pet care providers are seeing more consolidation as bigger businesses try to dominate.
Several years ago a small independent chain of lodging facilities, “Pooch Hotel”, was purchased by Petco. Sure, Pooch Hotel still calls itself Pooch Hotel – but it’s Petco’s lodging business now. Petco just announced that it acquired the online pet supply company Doctors Foster and Smith. Now Petco will have its traditional stores, its “Unleashed” stores, Pooch Hotel, and Doctors Foster and Smith. It’s as if Petco is trying to cover every possible area of pet services – oh that’s right that’s exactly what they’re trying to do.
The massive West Coast pet supply distributer Animal Supply Company continues its ravenous expansion devouring PETNET distribution after acquiring Summit Pet, RFG and Brea within the last 18 months or so. Animal Supply Company itself has investment funds from the Halifax Group. This consolidation makes it harder for independent stores to shop around for suppliers and allows distributors to increase minimum orders and add other fees since the neighborhood store has increasingly fewer options.
And at the end of last year VCA Hospital, the veterinary hospital chain with over 600 clinics in 42 states and 4 Canadian provinces, including San Francisco Veterinary Specialists here in San Francisco, announced that it purchased Camp Bow Bow and its 152 overnight and day care franchises. While many wondered why a veterinary chain would purchase a chain of overnight and day care facilities, at some level the answer is pretty simple…it’s the exact same client base and like Petco, VCA is trying to expand its pet care reach.
So where does all this leave the small, independent retail store, veterinarian or pet care provider? Are our days numbered or will there always be a niche (and hopefully more than a niche) for small businesses in the pet world?
What do you think?
Thanks for reading!