What happens when Walmart opens up permanent veterinary clinics in its stores? That’s the potentially game-changing question facing the U.S. pet market industry, according to market research firm Packaged Facts in the report “Veterinary Services and Pet Product Retailing.”
“The market for veterinary services has gotten a bit more competitive in recent months, with news that Walmart would open up permanent veterinary clinics in a handful of stores in 2018,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.
This move is part of the strategy of PetIQ, a manufacturer and distributor of pet medications that is trying to reposition its business as a veterinary services powerhouse. Less than six months after filing for its IPO, PetIQ acquired VIP Petcare in January 2018. Two months later, PetIQ announced that it would open 20 permanent clinics in Walmart stores in 2018, with 1,000 clinics planned in PetIQ’s retail partners by 2023. This is in addition to the 2,000 retail locations in which VIP Petcare had 72,000 pop-up clinics in 2017. In fact, PetIQ cited data from Packaged Facts as one validation for entering this attractive market.
The pet specialty superstores have also shown renewed interest in veterinary services. Petco has begun to partner with veterinarians to open permanent animal hospitals in its stores. Previously, it had only operated pop-up Vetco clinics.
And PetSmart has sought to expand beyond its relationship with Banfield, which has more than 800 locations inside PetSmart stores. PetSmart has been recruiting veterinarians to fill up unused clinics in 188 additional locations.
Beyond this, the industry is experiencing considerable interest from industry players (e.g., Mars) and private equity (including KKR, Morgan Stanley, Ares and others), who have been snatching up animal hospitals.