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CNN reports on how Wal-Mart is redefining its approach to the pet category, "including repositioning pet food and supplies right in front of its other fast-growing business, baby products," a move that it seen as highlighting a category that is reasonably recession-proof.

The strategy is described by analysts in the piece as having two basic strengths:

One, "Wal-Mart is being smart by ratcheting up investment in a category that guarantees continued consumer spending regardless of how tight the household budget gets. This could help offset softer sales in Wal-Mart's other businesses, including clothes and home-related goods."

Two, the company "is well-positioned to grab a bigger piece of the pet products market that's growing about 8% a year, as cost-conscious consumers continue to 'trade down' to less pricey alternatives in a difficult economy."

The numbers would appear to be in Wal-Mart's favor, with more than six out of 10 US households having some sort of pet, and with estimates that the retailers saves customers as much as 20 percent on their purchases of pet supplies.

KC's View:
Some of the analysts in the piece suggest that if Wal-Mart really wants to get successful in the pet business, it needs to mimic the likes of PetSmart and Petco and get into the service business – offering things like grooming services like will cement its relationships with the people who now refer themselves as "pet parents" rather than just "pet owners."

But I'm not sure this is right. First of all, you get into the service business and you run the risk of screwing up your margins, not to mention messing up the floor of your store. Bad move.

Furthermore, I question the credibility of anyone who would suggest mimicking the likes of PetSmart and Petcom, which are two of the least customer-friendly and efficient models that I've ever run into. As least for me, I hate going into these places…and so would suggest that Wal-Mart has to aim higher than that.