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Walmart unleashes new pet offerings

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A newly adopted pup gets a belly rub in Escondido, California. More Americans have acquired pets during the pandemic.

A newly adopted pup gets a belly rub in Escondido, California. More Americans have acquired pets during the pandemic. Ariana Drehsler/AFP via Getty Images

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Walmart is scheduled to report its quarterly earnings Tuesday before markets open. The mega-retailer has grown its business during the pandemic, ramping up e-commerce to compete with Amazon.

Now the retailer is launching Walmart Pet Care, which will offer pet insurance, dog walking and pet-sitting in addition to the pet food and toys it already sells.

The increase in the number of people getting pets has been one of the few truly positive news stories this year.

“Oh, yes, I have a pandemic golden. He’s in training right now,” said dog owner Greg Portell, laughing.

Portell, a partner with consulting firm Kearney, said the nearly $100 billion pet market has proven to be resilient even through recessions.

“Consumers have really taken to pets as a way to have a little bit of luxury without really going over the top for themselves,” he said.

Specialized retailers like Petco and PetSmart have dominated the market, but big general retailers like Walmart and Target are catching up, said Mickey Chadha, an analyst at Moody’s Investors Service.

“It’s an attractive space to be in,” he added.

And the big-box stores have an advantage during the pandemic because consumers are looking for one-stop shopping.

But Chadha said specialty stores have an advantage, too. Some pet retailers have exclusive deals with pet food brands, and our fur babies can be pretty picky eaters.

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