Earlier this year, on entering the company website while researching a piece on Tractor Supply, viewers were greeted by a huge, click-thru banner ad which announced a weekend-long promotion, sponsored by Purina.  That these two corporate icons were cooperating on so prominent an event was intriguing.

While the denizens of many retail markets, ranging from grocers to discount big boxes to dollar stores, and of course the growing number of pet specialty stores, are aggressively seeking to increase their popular and profitable pet offerings, the size and prominence of the Tractor Supply/Purina banner suggested something more than seeking a slightly greater market share for a somewhat ancillary product.  Like the assorted retailers listed above, many elements of the increasingly versatile hardware retail market have found comfort in the recession-proof pet products market.  Earlier, this space featured an Insight on the success True Value and it member stores were enjoying as they grew their pet product offerings.

During the height of the recession, it was discovered that many economically struggling consumers, while cutting back on even food for family members, were still seeking to provide generously for their pets.  This notion is bolstered by the fact that Chain Store Guide’s current Recession Busters series featured PetSmart as one of the strongest retailers to easily thrive and grow during the recession.

Now it appears that there was a greater purpose to Tractor Supply’s weekend promotion than simply selling additional product.  Tractor Supply Co. is about to open two stores aimed at focusing on the pet products market.  They will debut under the new banner, HomeTown Pet.  As is to be expected from the ever-prepared management team at Tractor Supply, the two stores will open strategically near the corporate headquarters in Brentwood, Tennessee, within comfortable proximity to the company’s store support center.

This of course will allow the company to closely monitor the progress of the stores and most importantly the comfort and reaction of customers to what will clearly be established as a work-in-progress.   What will set these stores apart from retail competition, including specialty stores, is that this new brand will offer complete lines of products for a wide variety of both pets and animals, including cats, dogs, poultry, birds and horses.  The new entity will also offer grooming and mobile vet services.  These stores will be far more than pet products entities.

Tractor Supply management reset its corporate course two decades through a complex series of planning meetings, designed to define and attract a new type of customer, the affluent weekend rancher.   In doing so they also became an influential clothier to this new customer segment, including and especially neighborhood children.  There is no reason to believe that with their amazing track record over the past two decades, the collaboration with Purina earlier this year, wasn’t a harbinger of good things to come for their second retail venture.