A SPECIAL COMMENTARY BY EDITOR SUZANNE JALOT
Press releases cross my desk every day. Sometimes dozens of them. I try to sort through them all, but because of the sheer volume of emails I receive, and the impossibility of covering every single story, anything that doesn’t immediately catch my attention or that is irrelevant to our readers will unfortunately get tossed away. But on this particular day there was one press release that caught my eye. The headline read:
“Unleashed by PETCO Offers Chula Vista Pet Parents a New Way to Shop for Happy, Healthy Pets”
North Carolina is no where near Chula Vista, but what caught my attention was the fact that Petco was opening a new store under a different name and calling it a “community” pet store. A community pet store? As opposed to the “Big Box” stores in the area? Well, isn’t that what Petco is?
Several questions immediately came to mind. If community stores are so much better than Big Box stores, where does Petco fit in? Are they saying Petco is for those with no imagination or “hip” factor and the truly original pet owners should shop at Unleashed? What does that say about their Petco customers? If Unleashed is so great, why not shut down all the Petco stores? If Petco was good enough, why the need to start a new brand?
But what really bothered me was the fact that they are trying to pass off this new brand as a community store. Ding, ding, ding! Then it hit me. They realize that some people are turned off by big chains and prefer to shop locally. Voila! We’ll create a “local” store then. In….every……city.
I’m sorry, but it is impossible for a store owned by a national chain to be a “community” store. Do they think they’re fooling anyone? A community store is a store owned and operated by local business owners. A community store does not answer to corporate headquarters several states away. A community store makes it’s own decisions on what to carry, what hours to operate and what charities to donate to. A community store puts approximately $0.70 of every dollar spent back into the community in which it is located. (compared with approximately $0.40 for a national chain)
Go to www.unleashedbypetco.com and the site tells you Unleashed is your neighborhood store. Really? Because the neighborhood stores I know don’t have a corporate headquarters. They’re not owned by a national chain. They are run by hardworking small business owners who care about the community they serve. They’re not looking to put a store on every corner, they just want to serve their neighborhood and serve it well.
Even better, the website says at Unleashed you’ll find “premium, natural, organic, and raw pet food selections unavailable in local grocery stores.” REALLY? They must also mean the kind of pet food unavailable at Petco stores as well.
I think Petco is having an identity crisis. The company can’t decide if it wants to be a big, national chain or a quaint, neighborhood store. You can’t be both, in fact, it’s impossible to be both, no matter how many brands you create. If you’re a big chain, then be a big chain and be proud of it. But don’t try to create illusions in an effort to fool people into believing you are a community store. Personally, I will be patronizing my locally-owned pet stores. They are not having an identity crisis. They know exactly who they are.