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Tops With Pet Owners

Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Friendly Market has enhanced its commitment to the pet care category by expanding its selection and stepping up its merchandising in the pet aisle.




Officials at Tops Friendly Markets read the U.S. census data, and what it shows is that there are more households who own a pet than have babies living in them. Therefore, the Williamsville, N.Y.-based chain, with 162 stores scattered throughout western New York, northern Pennylvania and Vermont is placing a big bet on its pet section.

The chain devotes both sides of a long aisle in most of its larger stores to the pet section, adding endcaps where possible to increase the visibility of the section and to convince more shoppers to go down the pet aisle.

“This is a very important category for us,” says Mary Lewalski, category manager for household, baby and pet for Tops. “It is important to the growth of the company and to drive traffic into the store. So it is also important to have the right items in stock and to stay on top of the trends. We also stay with brands that we and our customers trust—and it is important to add, we carry no products that are sourced or produced in China.”

Part of staying up with the trends includes offering more grain-free and natural products, as well as more pet treats, including varying sizes of the most popular products. “We are very seriously looking for ways to expand the space for our pet treat assortment,” Lewalski says.

Tops is also placing a strong emphasis on premium and ultra-premium foods as more consumers seek these items for their pets.

The company is planning to use an existing store—probably in Amherst, N.Y.—as a test site in the near future to experiment with different layouts for the pet category. “We want to blow up the aisle and start fresh,” Lewalski adds. “We want to make sure that we have the right amount of space for the right segments of the pet category.” ❉

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