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Pet meds provide new way to draw in customers


WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT'S IMPORTANT — One of the most common reasons that retailers give for pet-medication programs is that pets are part of the family.

As analyst Debbie Wang of investment firm Morningstar told Drug Store News in April 2012, more empty nesters and young couples putting off having children are driving increases in pet ownership, and with that comes a need for pet healthcare.

(THE NEWS: Vet, FTC meeting affirms pharmacists' animal medication role. Click here for the story.) 

This is why retailers like Kmart and Costco have been pushing their pet med businesses and expand their presence in a pet products market-worth, by some estimates, almost $53 billion. But a bigger reason is that it helps draw customers into the store, Wang said. Pet meds in and of themselves aren't a major profit driver: A study cited by online pet supply retailer Drs. Foster and Smith estimates that 6 million pet prescriptions were filled at pharmacies outside veterinary offices last year, while Packaged Facts estimates that total sales of prescription pet drugs, including those dispensed by veterinarians, were $6.7 billion the same year.

Convenience is another incentive. As Nutramax director of veterinary science Rob Devlin told Drug Store News in June, the availability of OTC products for fleas, ticks and heartworm and new OTC pet supplements helps turn retailers into one-stop shop. But merchandising is important: Devlin — who estimated the total market for pet health, foods and other products at $52.87 billion — suggested that pet health should be a separate block in the store from pet treats in order to distinguish health products from those that might claim to provide health benefits, but contain low amounts of nutrients.

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