My husband and I are fans of Shark Tank, and we happened to watch a vintage episode from November 2016 where Pupbox was pitched, The company was offering a subscription box to puppy owners which followed the puppies with age-appropriate offerings through adulthood, when they switched to an adult dog version of the box. The segment ends happily as Shark Robert Herjavec makes an offer that the owners accept.
As the owners mentioned the struggles that inspired the business, which involved figuring out what they should be buying for their own pet, it struck me that had they only purchased their dog from a responsible, AKC Breeder of Merit type of breeder, they would not have had so much trouble, as a dedicated dog breeder will follow and support their puppy buyers throughout the puppies’ lifetime and often beyond.
But Pupbox, and in turn, Petco realized that not every dog or puppy buyer is so lucky. People acquire dogs many ways including, from friends and family who no longer want the dog, from rescues and shelters that don’t have the staff to engage in long-term follow-up, as strays that wander into their lives, and from breeders whose motivation to engage with puppy buyers ends at the point of sale. Petco acquired Pupbox in November 2017, about 5 months after they acquired Petcoach, an online consulting service which also provides the same type of support that comes with a responsibly bred puppy.
In July 2018, Petco announced a retail experiment, turning PetCoach into a retail store in San Marcos, California. The concept provides a select group of high-quality products and services inside a PetCoach store. Products include high quality, curated food selection, including custom formulations from Petco’s partner Just Food For Dogs and also offers comprehensive online record keeping for dog services available in-store.
In today’s world where specialty retail is under attack from both online vendors and the expanding pet product set in mass retailers, this provides a service level that will be very hard to match. The question is whether this concept will generate sufficient loyalty and in turn profit, to survive.