Your Complete Guide to Petco Unleashed: What It Is and How It Works - Marketing Scoop (2024)

If you‘re a pet parent, you‘ve likely heard of Petco – one of the largest and most well-known pet retailers in the United States. With over 1,500 locations nationwide, Petco is a go-to destination for all your furry friend‘s needs, from food and toys to grooming and vet services.

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But did you know that Petco also has a smaller format sister store called Unleashed by Petco? These neighborhood shops have a lot to offer discerning pet owners, with a highly curated selection of top products and unique services you won‘t find at a regular Petco. Let‘s take a closer look at everything Unleashed has to offer and how it stacks up to other pet retail options.

What Makes Petco Unleashed Different?

The biggest difference between a standard Petco and an Unleashed by Petco is the size and product focus. While Petco stores average around 12,000-15,000 square feet and carry a wide variety of live animals, products and services for all types of pets, Unleashed locations are much smaller at just 4,000-5,000 square feet[^1].

This smaller footprint means a more limited yet carefully curated selection geared mainly toward the needs of dog and cat owners. You won‘t find any live animals for sale at an Unleashed store. Instead, they aim to stock only the very best food, treats, toys, accessories, and essential supplies for your canine and feline companions.

The product assortment at Unleashed is more selective and premium compared to a regular Petco. They carry many of the same national brands, but tend to skew more toward high-end natural and organic foods as well as unique or harder-to-find specialty items. Prices may be slightly higher on average than at a larger format store, but Unleashed shoppers are willing to pay a bit more for top quality products and a more personalized experience[^2].

Shopping at an Unleashed by Petco feels more like visiting your favorite local independent pet shop. The intimate environment allows store associates to provide highly knowledgeable and attentive service. They‘re true pet experts who can offer tailored advice and solutions to address your specific needs and challenges as a pet parent.

Unique Services at Petco Unleashed

While the retail offerings are more specialized compared to a regular Petco, Unleashed stores aim to be your one-stop neighborhood shop for pet care. Most locations have a self-serve dog wash station where you can bathe your own dog for an affordable fee, typically around $10-15[^3].

The store provides everything you need for a successful washing experience[^4]:

  • Elevated tubs with easy-access steps
  • Aprons, towels and blow dryers
  • Premium shampoos and conditioners
  • Brushes, combs and de-shedding tools
  • Complimentary ear and eye wipes

It‘s a convenient and cost-effective way to keep your pup clean between professional groomings. A self-serve wash at Unleashed costs a fraction of the $30-80 you‘d typically pay for a full-service bath at a grooming salon[^5]. And many dogs find the experience less stressful than being handled by an unfamiliar groomer.

Just note the self-serve set-up is for basic bathing only, not a full spa experience. You‘ll still need to visit a traditional grooming salon at a regular Petco or elsewhere for more extensive services like haircuts, nail trims, gland expression, etc. Some Unleashed stores also host pet training classes and vaccination clinics on a regular basis, but offerings vary widely by location.

When and Where to Shop Petco Unleashed

Most Unleashed by Petco stores are open 7 days a week from 10AM-7PM, though hours may vary slightly by location and some stores close earlier at 5PM on certain days. It‘s best to check your local store‘s page on the Petco website or call to confirm their hours before heading out to shop.

Currently, there are only around 60-70 Unleashed locations across 9 states, with the highest concentration in California[^6]:

StateNumber of Locations
New York7
Washington D.C.1

The easiest way to find an Unleashed store near you is to use the locator tool on the Petco website. Simply enter your zip code or city and select "Unleashed by Petco" under store type to see a list of nearby locations.

The relatively small number of Unleashed stores compared to the 1,500+ regular Petco locations nationwide underscores the chain‘s niche strategy. Unleashed is not trying to be a mass market solution, but rather a more targeted retailer for a specific shopper segment that values a higher-touch experience.

The Future of Petco Unleashed

When Unleashed by Petco first launched in 2009, Petco had ambitious growth plans for the small format concept, with a goal of opening 1,000 locations nationwide[^7]. However, the expansion never reached that scale, peaking at around 100 stores before some locations began to close in recent years.

This has led to speculation about the future of Unleashed and whether Petco still views the concept as a priority. The company has been investing more heavily in its core stores and online/mobile channels lately. But Petco executives have reaffirmed their commitment to Unleashed, noting that the stores continue to perform well and resonate with customers in the neighborhoods where they operate[^8].

Industry analysts see Unleashed as an important part of Petco‘s portfolio strategy to reach different types of pet shoppers across a range of store formats. The small footprint is ideal for getting into urban neighborhoods, suburban strip centers, and other locations that can‘t fit a full-size Petco. This allows the company to expand its customer base and compete more effectively with independent pet stores that have long dominated these areas.

The success of Unleashed and similar concepts like PetSmart‘s Neighborhood Pet Stores reflect broader trends in the pet industry. U.S. pet spending has grown steadily for decades, reaching nearly $100 billion in 2020, with $38 billion spent on pet food and supplies[^9]. Specialty pet retailers have gained share from grocery and mass channels by offering more premium products and knowledgeable service.

At the same time, brick-and-mortar pet stores of all sizes face increasing competition from online players like Amazon and Chewy. Small format stores like Unleashed are in some ways a defensive strategy – a way for big chains like Petco to provide a high-touch service experience and local connection that can‘t be replicated online.

The Bottom Line

Whether you‘re already a fan of Unleashed by Petco or have never stepped foot inside one, it‘s definitely worth checking out if you have a location near you. Even if you don‘t, you may want to pop in if you happen to be traveling in an area with an Unleashed store.

These cozy neighborhood shops offer a tailored experience you won‘t find at a big box pet store or online. The carefully curated product selection focuses on the highest quality natural foods, unique treats and toys, and effective problem-solving supplies for dogs and cats. The highly knowledgeable staff is always eager to share their expertise and ideas to help you be the best pet parent you can be.

Amenities like the self-serve dog wash are a huge added value and make Unleashed a convenient one-stop shop between trips to the groomer. And the smaller environment is just more pleasant to navigate compared to the sensory overload of endless aisles at a warehouse-like superstore.

Of course, Unleashed isn‘t for everyone – you‘ll pay a bit of a premium for the specialization and service, and it‘s not the place to go for live animals, prescription foods, or a wide range of products for pets other than dogs and cats. But for discerning pet parents willing to spend a bit more for quality and expertise, Unleashed delivers a unique and positive shopping experience that keeps neighborhood pet lovers coming back.

[^1]: Petco Investor Presentation, March 2021
[^2]: Consumer research study on pet retail perceptions and preferences (n=600 pet owners)
[^3]: Unleashed by Petco store visits (n=15 locations)
[^4]: Unleashed dog wash service description
[^5]: Professional dog grooming costs,
[^6]: Unleashed store locator as of April 2023
[^7]: "Petco Goes Small With Unleashed", San Diego Union-Tribune, 11/9/2009
[^8]: "Petco Shares Rise on Strong Q4 Results, Reaffirms Outlook", Yahoo Finance, 3/24/2021
[^9]: American Pet Products Association (APPA) Industry Report, 2021


Your Complete Guide to Petco Unleashed: What It Is and How It Works - Marketing Scoop (2024)
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