Now that it’s been several months of Petco’s acquisition of Drs. Foster & Smith and their famous Live Aquaria division the Internet has and is still crying out in protest of the deal. Every major social network has been slammed with negative responses to the news including news outlets that are outside of the industry.
Billy Rotne commented on Facebook about the news: “Petco is the opposite of Live Aquaria in regards to the image brought to our hobby. Live Aquaria sets the standard, whereas Petco is the best example of the negative side of retail in this hobby. This can’t be good.” Most others agree with 89% negative sentiment towards the news according to a popular social listening application Radian6.
“Very disappointed to hear this.” wrote Rusty Whitmore, “So basically the care procedures of the fish and inverts at DFS will probably be decided by a bunch of greedy pencil pushers that obviously don’t own fish, just like in the Petco stores. Feel bad for those employees. I worked at a Petco for a year while in college and it was depressing. No autonomy whatsoever.
Rusty’s comments aren’t alone as our own analysis of Petco Stores has shown a dismal record and utter lack of care to our live animals. A forum post from a Petco employee was asking members how to properly take care of ich in their store. He was aware of their store having a “highest death rates of all the stores in this division because no one in this store knew what they were doing so for the first two weeks all I’ve been trying to do is get the water quality at a reasonable level mostly for the freshwater systems.”
Rusty continues with his agonies with Petco store and management “I basically fought a losing battle trying to keep marine stock healthy while working under bureaucratic corporate policies. They would require overstocking tanks just for aesthetic reasons. It was pretty much ich city every week and I couldn’t do much about it.”
However, to be fair Drs. Foster and Smith have gone on the offensive due no doubt to the hugely negative reaction to the news. Kevin Kohen, Director of Live Aquaria has posted a lengthy response to hobbyist forums letting them know in so many words nothing is going to change:
Dr. Race Foster and Dr. Marty Smith have worked incredibly hard over the last 31 years, to build a very successful business, which revolves around education, pet heath, and responsible pet ownership. The Petco mission is elevating the lives of animals and enhancing the connection people have with their pets, with a commitment to the highest standards of social responsibility, while continually striving to make things better for pets, people and the planet. Understanding each company’s mission and goals are very similar, we feel this partnership and synergy is going to be beneficial to animals, pet owners, and aquarium hobbyists and enthusiasts alike.
I can assure you, my personal mission as the LiveAquaria Director is to take LiveAquaria.com to an even higher level than ever before. The continued expansion of our Aquaculture Coral and Marine Life facility in Rhinelander Wisconsin, home of the LiveAquaria.com Divers Den®, allows us to offer an even greater assortment of quality aquatic life shipped direct to your door.
Dr. Race Foster and I are not going anywhere. We will continue to operate Drs. Foster and Smith Pet Supplies and LiveAquaria.com as it’s business as usual, right here in Rhinelander Wisconsin. We are incredibly excited for the future and what lies ahead.
Bill Leo a store manager from Petco comments: “Petco is a great company welcome to the family Dr Fosters and Smith. I look forward to the new partnership!” but then later levels with us regarding each store: “Each store is run very differently and we have access to the same distributors as any other store. Most stores unfortunately don’t have the knowledge about salt water to bring in anything other than the basics.”
But then you have folks commenting on what most takeovers can turn into like forum member Wryknow who writes: “What really happens – The company doesn’t change for a couple of months while the new corporation figures out how it’s going to cut costs and integrate the new company into their existing processes. Then they start firing “over-compensated” employees (i.e. ones with experience that care about their customers) and “streamilne” the supply chain to reduce costs. Customers now get the same crummy service and products that they would get from PETCO under a new name…”
Terms of the mega deal weren’t immediately disclosed but Drs. Foster and Smith has been on the block for a while now as The Street reported over a month ago (hat tip: Jennifer Kaufman) “Drs. Foster & Smith, the Rhinelander, Wis.-based hybrid catalogue and e-commerce business that sells a wide variety of pet products, is one of the larger players in the sector. The company has annual revenue of $250 million, according to a source, and is profitable. About half of Drs. Foster & Smith’s business is generated online.”
“The long term plan is for everything in Rhinelander to stay here. Management is still in place and Marty (Smith) and Race (Foster) will continue to be associated with the company.” Wrote Gordon Magee, Director of Marketing at Drs. Foster and Smith to a local newspaper that covered the news. The Drs. Foster and Smith name and brands will also continue into the future. Employees met with the owners Wednesday and Thursday, and viewed a welcome video from management at Petco.
Petco CEO Jim Myers, was quoted as saying “This move underscores our commitment to nurturing the complete health and well-being of animals and further allows Petco to meet the diverse and expansive needs of pet parents. As pet lovers first and foremost, our values are perfectly aligned with Drs. Foster and Smith, and we’re confident this new addition to our business will help us continue to offer the very best in products and services to pets and pet parents.”
As much as we would like to believe Jim’s words—his own stores speak for themselves at having friendly staff trying to learn but no training programs for employees to learn and help their aquatics divisions. But Jim might not care; the aquatics business is a small slice of the pie compared to the larger dog and cat industries where most of the profits are made.
What is really going to happen? We don’t know. We do know the fate of Drs. Foster and Smith rests on the deal sheet and final agreement that Marty Smith and Race Foster signed with Jim Myers that no doubt included provisions if/when the company might relocate and other necessary details such as their long-term fate and aquatics divisions such as Live Aquaria.
Until that deal sheet kicks in it’s business as usual for the largest pet catalog company in the world and Petco’s brand value is worth less than the now defunct Radio Shack.