We’re not your average place,” says Roger Perry, 36, owner of Cleveland’s Pet Food Supermart. There’s no disputing him. While most of Perry’s shoppers roam the aisles on two legs, a number of them use four. They’re not sniffing out bargains among the diet food, creme rinses and laundry detergents, but cocking their heads at the more unusual merchandise—the water bowl that always stays filled or the six-foot-high scratching post that invites a cat to think it’s a tree. Far from average, Perry’s 17,000-square-foot store is the largest pet supply warehouse in the country to invite animals (with their owners in tow) to shop for themselves.
Open since August, the Supermart and the nation’s three other trot-through establishments may represent the future of pet-supply retailing. The advantages they offer are those of paws-on shopping: A dog, for example, can immediately determine if a pair of rubber bootees is the right size, thus eliminating the need for returns. Such stores also provide a certain amount of ego gratification for humans, who can walk the animals on leashes or push them around in shopping carts. “People like to show their pets off, just like their children,” says Perry.
Planning to open two other marts in the Cleveland area, Perry reports that customer relations are excellent. There have been no incidents of patrons chasing each other or knocking over displays. “The only problem is dogs occasionally coming in and getting excited,” he says. “But we just get a bucket and mop and clean it up.”