Leaving behind its big-box roots, Petco is opening a new kind of retail store where animal-friendly amenities such as dog baths, play yards and treats fit for humans are meant to win over picky pet parents who would otherwise snub the mainstream brand.
Called PetCoach, the pilot San Diego store is the old pet store re-imagined — literally.
Instead of a smattering of products, shoppers will find that services such as veterinary care, grooming and dog day care not only dominate but dictate the entire experience. Food, clothing and toys are also available, but they are displayed by task, meaning customers should come for the care but find a relevant product.
PetCoach is the brainchild of Brock Weatherup, a Petco executive who runs the firm’s new initiatives arm and who relocated to San Diego from Philadelphia after his app with the same name was acquired in April of last year.
As an app, PetCoach presented people with a cheap way of getting their pressing pet questions answered quickly by experts. Now it has taken on a physical life of its own.
“The whole premise of this was, could we bring this high level of education and validation all together … and make it physically viable?” he said. “So you would be excited to walk in and go, ‘This doesn’t exist anywhere else.’ ”
If Petco’s unit succeeds in its mission, pet parents will subscribe to a new model at PetCoach where a $9 monthly membership, inspired by REI’s co-op program and Amazon Prime, nets customers discounted goods and services.
It is an effort for Petco to both catch up online to its competitors and then get ahead of them, Weatherup said.
Miro Copic, a San Diego State University marketing lecturer, said the store looks nothing like a traditional Petco or other mainstream pet stores — by design.
“Not having a direct link to Petco, that’s a great way to get people who shop at PetSmart or boutique stores to try this out,” he said.
Still, a year from now the PetCoach store will look different because the idea is to use it as a learning lab.
“The slate is completely blank,” Weatherup said.