Walmart announced last week it will be opening dozens of veterinary clinics across the nation, aiming to have more than 100 of them over the next year. The retail giant currently has 21 clinics in operation.
Additionally, Walmart is now offering prescription pet medications online and is upping its pet food game, stocking more than 100 new brands over the last year, most of them in the premium and/or organic category.
This seems, on the surface, to be a very smart move, as pet ownership – specifically dog ownership – is soaring in America, according to a recent CivicScience study. But the big question Walmart certainly faces is this: Will this pet-centric approach lead to more traffic in its stores and on its website?
For answers to that and other questions, CivicScience looked at data covering the last year, comparing Walmart to its main competitors – Target and Amazon. To start with, the study looked at general favorability trends over the last year. Walmart, with a 51% favorable rating overall among U.S. adults, came in a distant third, trailing Target’s favorability by 16% and Amazon’s by 23%.
And when comparing the favorability of the three shopping experiences with people who currently own pets, the numbers got even worse for the world’s number one retailer. Among pet owners, Walmart trailed Target in favorability by 19% and Amazon by 30%.
And while the numbers above aren’t exactly screaming good things for Walmart, there is the opportunity for growth, and Walmart knows exactly where they are looking: Millennials.
As noted in CivicScience’s earlier study, Millennials (ages 25-34) are the second fastest-growing segment of the pet ownership population, barely trailing Generation Z. And in Walmart’s blog post announcing these moves, the company specifically cites – in the first paragraph – the fact Millennials spend upwards of $1,300 a year on their pets.
It seems as if the company has this demographic squarely in their sights, and, as noted earlier, they have plenty of room for growth with this generation. (Or, in a glass-half-empty scenario, they have their work cut out for them.)
To be blunt: Walmart favorability among Millennial pet owners compared to Target and Amazon is not great. Walmart comes in at 41%, lagging behind Target by 33% and Amazon by 41%.
Walmart, in fact, might be barking up the wrong tree when it comes to pet owners.
The company is strongest – by a wide margin – in the 55+ category. Walmart’s favorability among pet owners in the Baby Boomer and older category tops Target by 8% and trails Amazon by a mere 5%.
Of course, all the favorability in the world won’t mean much if people don’t bring their pets to Walmart for their veterinary needs. Luckily for Walmart, nearly a third of pet owners in America said they would be at least “somewhat likely” to give Walmart a chance with Fido or Fifi.
Furthermore, Walmart laps the field when it comes to where pet owners would prefer to get their medication, food, and supplies. Despite lagging in overall favorability ratings, Walmart tops Amazon and nearly doubles Target when it comes to where Americans prefer to shop for their pets’ needs.
As to the “why?” from the above chart? Price concerns. Americans who “always” compare prices before purchasing any products are more pro-Walmart than those who compare prices “sometimes” or “never” when it comes to where they’d buy their pet supplies.
Overall, it’s a bit of a mixed bag at this point for Walmart and their deeper foray into the booming pet industry. On one hand, the company will need to work hard to turn Millennials and Generation Z – the two fastest growing segments of the pet market – into Walmart lovers. On the other hand, Americans are price-sensitive, and Walmart has done a masterful job of always positioning themselves as the least expensive option. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that fact wins over a good majority of pet owners.