View from the C-Suite: Pet Valu unites pet lovers and sports fans

The pet retailer partners with the Vancouver Canucks to strengthen brand awareness.
TanbirGrover

Tanbir Grover, Pet Valu’s chief digital and marketing officer

At the onset of the pandemic when cabin fever, loneliness and uncertainty seemed to be universally experienced, many came to the same conclusion: it was time to add a furry friend to the family. “Pandemic puppies” became a common phrase, and the number of new pet parents exploded – a November 2021 study conducted by Narrative Research found that one in three Canadians welcomed a pet into their home during the pandemic.

And those pets needed essentials – something Pet Valu, Canada’s leading specialty retailer of pet food and pet-related supplies, capitalized on: from 2020 to 2021, the company saw a 19.7% increase in revenue.

But as we shift out of the pandemic, the brand is implementing new tactics to maintain strong growth. As chief digital and marketing office Tanbir Grover tells us, significant investment has been placed into the brand’s e-commerce platform, which aims to work in harmony with the in-store experience.

Additionally, Pet Valu has just announced a multi-year sponsorship agreement with the Vancouver Canucks, making it the first major pet specialty retailer in Canada to unite with this major sports organization. The partnership will connect pet lovers and sports fans through engaging content, game presentation integration, prizing and broadcast signage. Deepening its commitment to bring pets and pet lovers together, the partnership will also allow Pet Valu to spotlight its Companions for Change program, which includes adoption events and supports other community initiatives.

Here, Grover explains more about the new partnership with the Vancouver Canucks, how Pet Valu continues to strengthen its relationship with pet parents and how the brand’s e-commerce strategy has evolved.

The pet ownership community saw a boom during the pandemic. In terms of marketing strategies, how did Pet Valu capitalize on this, and what direction is marketing taking now that we’re moving into post-pandemic territory?

By offering companionship, a comforting presence during stressful times and a reason to get outside and exercise, pets helped millions of Canadians get through the pandemic. In late 2021, we launched Love Lives Here, a 360 marketing campaign that showcased the special bond between pets and pet parents, and how Pet Valu nurtures that relationship through authentic, memorable moments that happen in our stores every day.

Designed to strengthen brand awareness and affinity, the campaign showed that having a pet isn’t always easy but it’s always worth it. The campaign included ads across numerous channels including YouTube, social and digital along with billboards featuring photos submitted by Canadian pet lovers, and integrations on Canadian TV and news shows.

As we move into post-pandemic territory, we will continue to show Pet Valu is committed to nurturing the unconditional relationship between devoted pet lovers and their pets, offering animal care expertise, compassionate service and high-quality products and services, and that we’re here to help whenever they need us. Through our Companions for Change program, sponsorship agreements, and in-store experiences we will be creating many more memorable moments for devoted pet lovers and their pets.

How are e-commerce sales doing in relation to in-store? Can you speak to any investments or strategies that are continuing to drive e-commerce specifically?

Over the last several years, we have invested to modernize our technology infrastructure and expand our e-commerce capabilities. In February 2021, we completed the national roll-out of a transaction website with direct-to-home delivery capability, in July 2021 we completed upgrades to point-of-sale technology, and in September 2021 we completed the activation of a click-and-collect fulfillment option across all corporate and franchised stores.

More recently, in September of this year, we launched our AutoShip program. This is a subscription-based service enabling devoted pet lovers to automatically receive the pet essentials they need on a recurring schedule of their choice, and the option of having their essential products shipped to their home or be ready for pick-up in one of Pet Valu’s 640+ local stores, outside of Quebec.

Until December 31, 2022, for every product added to an autoship subscription, Pet Valu will donate $20 worth of Performatrin dog food to the Dog Guides’ feeding program.

At Pet Valu, we do not view our e-commerce capabilities as a siloed sales channel, but rather see it as an added convenience we can provide to our customers and complementary to their in-store shopping trips. In fact, the launch of our e-commerce platform has helped contribute to greater in-store traffic, as our customers often use our website to research products and read reviews.

We are very pleased with the growth in our e-commerce sales, which continue to grow as a percentage of our overall system-wide sales.

Pet Valu has marked its first sponsorship agreement with a major sporting franchise, the Vancouver Canucks. How did this deal come to fruition, and why was now the right time to act?

We continue to look for new marketing strategies and channels to reach and engage with devoted pet lovers across Canada. We felt that the Vancouver Canucks not only provided us the opportunity for a devoted pet lover centric and meaningful sponsorship agreement with a focus on fan engagement and content, but also a great test-and-learn, regional opportunity in sport sponsorships.

It will also allow us to strengthen awareness and help amplify Pet Valu’s banners in Western Canada, including Bosley’s by Pet Valu, Pet Valu, Tisol and Total Pet by leveraging the strong regional brand affinity among the 2.3M avid Canucks fan base (the largest fan base in Western Canada), while creating memorable moments for their devoted pet lover fans. As many Canucks players, their fans and individuals at Canucks Sports & Entertainment (CSE) are devoted pet lovers, teaming up with the organization was a natural fit.

Finally, can you speak to how Pet Valu’s target demographic has changed over the last decade? How do you forecast it’ll change in the next decade to come?

Our target demographic – the devoted pet lover – has remained consistent over the last several years. Devoted pet lovers consider their pets part of their family and they prioritize their pet’s health and happiness as they would for any family member. They value expertise and a human touch when it comes to shopping for their pets. We believe the engaging retail experience we provide our customers, focused on expertise and a broad premium offering, are best suited to meet the needs of this discerning segment.