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According to the Humane Society, 39% of US households own at least one dog, but many of those households have more than one dog. In fact, the latest figures say there are about 78.2 million pet dogs in the U.S. And it’s estimated that the average annual cost of owning a dog is about $2,300 when you factor in food, toys, beds, leashes and collars, grooming, routine trips to the vet, training, boarding, and preventative supplies like tick and flea control.
That means Americans spend almost $180 billion a year on our dogs! It’s no wonder big box pet supply stores like PetSmart and PetCo can be found in just about every town. They sell everything we buy, including veterinary services. So I got to wondering who is cheaper on pet supplies: PetSmart or PetCo.
On March 17, 2012 I visited the PetSmart in Eagan, Minnesota and the PetCo in West St. Paul, Minnesota to compare prices. These two stores are about seven miles apart and I live right in the middle of the two.
I tried to find products that were exactly the same, right down to the brand. What I discovered is that PetSmart and PetCo carry very few items that are exactly the same. In some cases they had the same brands but different products. In other instances they were completely different brands.
I selected 11 pet supplies at random, based on items that dog owners generally buy. Where PetSmart and PetCo carried the same brands, I identify the brand. Where the brands were different, I selected comparable brands and did not list the brand. (None of these prices include the discount that each store offers if you belong to their club.) Here’s what I found:
As you can see, there’s no 100% winner in who is cheaper on pet supplies: PetSmart or PetCo. However, 73% of the items selected at random were cheaper at PetSmart than they were at PetCo. When you compare just those items that are the exact same brand and exact same product, the edge also goes to PetSmart, but not by as wide a margin.
Of course there’s more to selecting a store than just price. There’s product selection (PetSmart won paws-down on this one), Customer Service (again, PetSmart won in this category for me) and Knowledgeable Staff (And the winner is…PetSmart).
We didn’t set out to conduct a statistically valid, analytical research project of who is cheaper on pet supplies: PetSmart or PetCo, so please don’t write in to tell us our sample is too small. We know. But we thought it would be a fun exercise to do a random review of a handful of products.
Which big box pet supply store do you shop and why?