Hardware giant Bunnings has announced the expansion of its pet care category, with hundreds of new products to hit shelves by late March.

The expanded category will feature close to 1,000 pet products, including a wider range of bedding and durables along with the introduction of food.

Anthony Ramsey, President of the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA), said it’s no surprise that Bunnings has decided it wants a piece of the $13 billion pie that is the Australian pet industry.

“The roll out of large corporate businesses operating chain stores and online only pet product retailers have already seen a significant reduction of the number of independent pet businesses over the past 15 years. Those that have survived have done so because of their points of difference, being their service, advice, range, quality of products, and the in-store retail experience.”

Ramsey believes it is highly unlikely that Bunnings will be able to compete with these types of businesses as they are already so good at what they do.

“I’d imagine Bunnings will target the consumer that already shops in big box chain stores not independents. Independent pet business also has the ability to sell families the pets themselves, be it a budgie, puppy or kitten, guinea pig, lizard or fish. This is a further string to the bow of many independent pet stores and an area that corporate business will never be able to compete against specialised pet retailers.”

Mike Schneider, Managing Director at Bunnings, said pets is a major growth category and believes there’s ample room in the market for larger operations and speciality providers alike.

“We know the role of pets is becoming increasingly important in Australian families and homes and see huge potential in this growing category when applying our proven strategy of combining lowest prices, widest range and best experience.”

John Grima, Owner of Kellyville Pets, said that the expansion is realistically no different than Target or Kmart doing the same thing, with the exception that Bunnings can easily trade in larger items such as pet enclosures due to their ability to deal with bulky goods.

“There will obviously be some impact on specialty, however product uniqueness and a business with passion will survive.”

Offering advice to independent retailers, Grima said to look for their unique business opportunity, carry products that are different, be a specialist, move quickly, and accept that others will play in this area and adapt.

Todd Clarkson, CEO of IndePet, agrees and says that it is paramount that independents keep focusing on what makes them different and not get dragged into competing directly on range or price.

“Independent pet retailers provide a level or service and community engagement that is unique and hard to replicate. The pet category is such a personal, service orientated industry which a retailer like Bunnings will find hard to replicate as a large volume price orientated retailer.

Clarkson said to try and avoid products that are going to be subject to the price promises of these large retailers and focus on delivering outstanding service and value to your local community.

Adam Wilton, Group Manager at Just For Pets, says independent retailers should use this as an opportunity to review their business plan and understand their strengths as a business.

“Ensure your business is up to date with the latest advancements in technology, business practices and offerings.

“Understand your customers, their needs and why they shop with you currently remembering we are in a service-based industry where not everyone is after that low cost, low service model that can be so easily replicated.”

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