Retail

Beyond dog food: Walmart adds pet insurance as animal adoptions soar during pandemic

Key Points
  • Walmart is offering insurance through Petplan and connecting people to pet sitters or dog walkers through Rover.
  • As the U.S. pet care market grows, Walmart is trying to stand out from competitors like Chewy, PetSmart and Petco.
  • "We're focused on bringing our customers and the beloved pets in their lives trusted, convenient and affordable programs at one destination," said Melody Richard, vice president of Walmart Pets.
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Along with buying bags of dog and cat food, pet owners can now turn to Walmart to buy insurance and find a sitter for their beloved animals.

Starting Thursday, the retailer said it will sell pet insurance from Petplan and connect customers to dog walking and more through Rover. It is launching Walmart Pet Care, a new landing page on its website as a central hub where customers can find its full range of animal products and services.

Melody Richard, vice president of Walmart Pets, declined to share terms of the deals with Petplan and Rover. She said Walmart customers will get unique discounts and perks. Customers can save up to 10% on insurance policies by going through the big-box retailer and will get gift cards for Walmart if they book pet sitting or dog walking through Rover.

"We're focused on bringing our customers and the beloved pets in their lives trusted, convenient and affordable programs at one destination," she said. "And we'll continue to focus on that."

Walmart is adding to its pet offerings at a time when more Americans are adopting new dogs, cats and other critters. The pandemic pet boom has also turned chew toys, seasonal costumes and pet supplies into a popular gift-giving category this holiday season.

Even before the pandemic, pet care was a growing market. The U.S. pet care industry is projected to increase from a $53 billion market to about $64 billion over the next four years, according to Jefferies research.

That has increased competition between companies that want a bigger slice of the pie, including superstores like PetSmart and Petco, big-box retailers like Walmart and Target and e-commerce players like Chewy.

In late October, Chewy launched a telehealth offering that allows customers who subscribe to its AutoShip service to consult with a vet about common concerns. There's also potential for Walmart and Chewy to gain market share as some specialty pet retailers struggle. Pet Valu announced plans this month to shut down its 358 stores across the U.S

Walmart estimates that 90 million pet owners shop at its stores and website. Last year, it launched an online pet pharmacy, WalmartPetRX, that sells prescriptions and hundreds of brands for dogs, cats, horses and livestock.

By offering multiple services, the retailer hopes pet owners will spend more at its stores. For example, customers who get pet insurance through Walmart may later get pet medications filled at its pharmacy.

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