If you are a pet parent, you have heard of Petco and PetSmart. They are the 2 biggest pet supplies companies in the United States.
For the fiscal year of 2019 – 2020, Petco had revenue of $3.2 billion while PetSmart had revenue of $7.1 billion. Petco has close to 1,500 locations in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Mexico while PetSmart has close to 1,700 locations.
Many people consider these two pet supply chains more or less the same and largely interchangeable.
While on the surface that might seem to be the case, beneath the surface there are some differences between Petco and PetSmart in terms of prices, products, and services.
The Main Difference
Just 5 years ago, there were some big differences between Petco and PetSmart. For example, PetSmart used to have a stronger focus on pet services – grooming, veterinary care, dog training, pet boarding – while Petco was more focused on selling pet products.
The table below highlights the main differences between Petco and PetSmart:
|Number of Locations||1,500||1,700|
|Store Brands||Petco, WholeHearted||PetSmart, Authority, Great Choice, Simply Nourish|
|In-Store Dog Training?||Yes||Yes|
|Online Dog Training?||Yes||No|
|Grooming for Dogs?||Yes||Yes|
|Grooming for Cats?||No||Yes|
|Sell Dogs & Cats?||No||No|
|Sell Live Pets?||Yes||Yes|
|Sell Food Animals Such as Rats, Mice, Crickets?||Yes||Yes|
The differences did not stop there. PetSmart used to sell cats and dogs at their stores while Petco differentiated itself by refusing to sell cats and dogs.
On the other hand, PetSmart did not sell any animals that could be used as pet food – so no rats, mice, crickets, or feeder fish to be found there – while Petco had no qualm about selling “food animals” such as rats, mice, crickets, and feeder fish.
Fast forward to 2020, the above differences have largely faded away, if not completely disappeared. Just like PetSmart, Petco is betting heavily on pet services.
It has been remodeling its stores to support this new focus – as much as 40% of the space in many remodeled Petco stores is devoted to services such as vet clinics, self serving pet washing, pet boarding, and pet training classes.
At the same time, PetSmart has stopped selling cats and dogs in their stores. Both Petco and PetSmart are now promoting adoptions for cats and dogs.
While no longer selling cats and dogs is a step forward for PetSmart, it has taken a step backward in a different area. Changing its earlier stance, PetSmart has started selling animals that can be used as food in its stores. So now both PetSmart and Petco are selling live rats, mice, and crickets in their stores.
The main difference between PetSmart and Petco is the product mixes they carry in store – PetSmart focuses on a narrower range of brands of pet food and toys that are largely exclusive in-house brands while Petco offers a wider selection of brands for pet food, treats, and toys that include more outside brands.
Some people think PetSmart stores are more brightly lit while Petco stores tend to be cleaner. But that is largely dependent on locations. The condition of a PetSmart or Petco store can vary quite a bit from one location to another.
While Petco and PetSmart may seem very similar to each other in what they are offering, each chain does have its own strengths and weaknesses. In this section, we will summarize the pros and cons of both Petco and PetSmart.
In general, the prices of pet supplies at Petco and PetSmart, including Petco.com and PetSmart.com, are very comparable to each other.
For some products, you will be able to buy them at Petco at a lower price. For other products, you will find the prices at PetSmart cheaper.
To get a more precise idea about how the prices at various pet stores stack up against each other, the Center for the Study of Services, an independent, nonprofit consumer organization conducted a study in 2019.
For that study, shoppers were sent out to compare the prices of 11 popular dog and cat foods at a variety of pet stores, big-box discounters, grocery stores, and warehouse clubs in seven metro areas: Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
Both Petco and PetSmart were among the stores they visited. The shoppers also looked at the prices at several national online retailers, including both Petco.com and PetSmart.com.
- The prices at PetSmart stores were 2 % lower than the all-store average
- The prices at Petco stores were the same as the all-store average
- The prices at PetSmart.com were 4 % lower than the all-store average
- The prices at Petco.com were 2 % lower than the all-store average
As you can see from the result of this study, on average, the prices at Petco, PetSmart, Petco.com, and PetSmart.com were all very close. But that does not mean you should not do price comparison among them.
For specific products, the prices charged by Petco and PetSmart could still differ quite a bit. Let us look at 2 examples.
- For Iams ProActive Health Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food, PetSmart charged $1.00 per pound while Petco charged $1.14 per pound. In this case, Petco was 14% more expensive than PetSmart
- For Wellness CORE Grain Free Original Formula Dry Dog Food, PetSmart charged $2.94 per pound while Petco charged $2.62 per pound. In this case, PetSmart was 12% more expensive than Petco
Depending on the specific product you are buying, the prices charged by Petco and PetSmart could differ by 14 percent or more.
Similarly, while the average prices at Petco.com and PetSmart.com are very close to each other, the prices of specific products at those 2 websites could still differ quite a lot. For example:
- For Iams ProActive Health Adult Large Breed Dry Dog Food, PetSmart.com charged $0.99 per pound while Petco.com charged $1.17 per pound. Petco.com was 18% more expensive than PetSmart.com
- For Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition Dry Dog Food, PetSmart.com charged $0.56 per pound while Petco.com charged $0.52 per pound. In this case, PetSmart.com was 8% more expensive than Petco.com
Across all the retailers surveyed, the study has found big differences in prices – the store (grocery store Jewel-Osco) that charged the highest prices was close to 80 percent more expensive than the store (warehouse club Sam’s Club) that offered the best prices. The average prices at select stores were:
- Sam’s Club’s prices were 22 percent lower than the all-store average
- BJ’s Wholesale Club was 18 percent lower
- Walmart was 12 percent lower
- PetSmart was 2 percent lower
- Petco was the same as average
- Stop & Shop was 14 percent higher
- Safeway was 15 percent higher
- Acme was 32 percent higher
- Jewel-Osco was 38 percent higher
For online retailers, Chewy.com had the cheapest average prices while the average prices at Amazon were more expensive than the all-store average:
- Chewy.com’s prices were 11 percent lower than the all-store average
- Target.com was 5 percent lower
- PetSmart.com was 4 percent lower
- Petco.com was 2 percent lower
- Amazon was 5 percent higher
- PetFlow.com was 27 percent higher
- PetCareRX.com was 32 percent higher
As you can see, prices at different retailers, both offline and online ones, vary a great deal. If there is one thing to take away from this study – always compare prices before you buy.
Price Match Guarantees
Even after you have bought your pet supplies at Petco or PetSmart, it would still make sense for you to compare prices with other retailers. Why? Because both Petco and PetSmart offer price match guarantees.
The Petco brick and mortar stores and the Petco.com website offer different price match policies. Likewise, the PetSmart brick and mortar stores and the PetSmart.com website offer different price match policies. Let us take a look at the specific detail of these policies:
- Petco: If you find a lower price for an identical item at any one of its competitors’ stores, Petco will match that price. It will also match regular and sale prices (excluding Repeat Delivery pricing) found on Petco.com. However, it will not match the prices of other online sellers or e-commerce websites
- Petco.com: It will match regular and sale prices found at Petco and Unleashed by Petco stores. It will also match prices at Amazon.com, Chewy.com, Jet.com, PetSmart.com, Walmart.com, Wag.com, and Target.com. It will not match prices at any other retailers or websites not listed above
- PetSmart: It will match prices at a competitor’s store or on PetSmart.com. It will not match prices advertised at clearance, liquidation, or other special events. It will not match the prices of other online sellers or e-commerce websites
- PetSmart.com: It will match any competitor’s online everyday price for in-stock, identical products. It will not match sale prices or prices advertised on Amazon, eBay, or other auction sites or closeout and discount sites
Both Petco and PetSmart offer various levels of training classes for puppies and adult dogs. For the common 6-week group classes, PetSmart has a price advantage – it charges $129 compared to Petco’s $149. On the other hand, Petco offers online 4-session classes delivered over Zoom for $99. PetSmart does not offer online classes.
Petco Training Prices
- Private Lesson 101: $25. A 45-minute private intro lesson that is tailored to understand the training needs of you and your dog. It helps you deal with common dog behaviors. And the Petco Positive Dog Trainer will create a customized training plan for you and your dog
- Puppy Level 1: $149. A 6-week introductory group class that focuses on socialization. For puppies 2 – 4 months
- Puppy Level 2: $149. A 6-week group class that expands on puppy basic behaviors and introduces the concept of establishing behaviors as routine. For puppies 2 – 4 months
- Adult Level 1: $149. A 6-week introductory group class that helps you better communicate with and train your dog. For dogs over 6 months old.
- Adult Level 2: $149. A 6-week group class that expands on lessons learned in Level 1, introduces more advanced and complex training environments to set your dog up to be successful in any situation. For graduates of Adult Level 1
- American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen: $149. A training class that prepares you and your dog to take the AKC CGC test, as well as improve on behaviors already learned. For dogs who have graduated from Adult Dog Level 2 or equivalent.
- Private Lesson: One-on-one customized training sessions with a private trainer
- Online Lesson: $99. 4-session group classes delivered online via Zoom. Offerings include Puppy Basics, Adult Basics, and Beyond the Basics
PetSmart Training Prices
- Bulk Discount: 3-Class Value Package $329, 2-Class Value Package $219
- Puppy Training: $129. A 6-week introductory group class. For puppies 10 weeks to 5 months old
- Beginner Training: $129. A 6-week group class. Teaches basic manners with impulse control and relationship building. For dogs 5 months or older with no previous training
- Intermediate Training: $129. A 6-week group class. Learn cues like “heel” and “place.”
- Advanced Training: $129. A 6-week group class. Learn manners while out and about, advanced heel with distractions, and more
- Therapy Dog Training: $129. A 6-week group class. Learn the skills needed to take a Therapy Dog Evaluation
- Private Training: One-on-one customized training sessions with a private trainer. 30min/$45, 1 hour/$89, 4 x 1 hour/$219.
- Potty Training seminar: $20
Both Petco and PetSmart offer an extensive array of grooming services such as:
- Bath & Brush
- Nail Trim & Buffing
- Teeth Brushing
- Breath Refresh
- Flea & Tick Cleanse
- Ear Cleaning
The main difference between the 2 retailers is that Petco only offers grooming services for dogs while PetSmart caters to both dogs and cats.
Prices depend on the breed of your pet and whether it is a puppy, kitten, or adult. With PetSmart, you can go to their grooming service website, enter your location, and the breed and age of your pet, and you will be able to see the prices of the grooming services available to your pet. With Petco, you have to call your local Petco grooming salon before your visit to receive an estimated price.
Both Petco and PetSmart offer loyalty reward programs – Petco Pals and PetSmart Treats, respectively. Let us take a look at these 2 programs in more detail.
- 5% Back: Earn 1 reward point for every $1 spent. When you reach 100 points, get a $5 reward to spend on anything in-store or online
- Birthday Gifts for Pets: Create an online profile for your pet and receive a free gift for your pet’s birthday
- Free Shipping: Get free shipping on all Repeat Delivery orders on Petco.com
- Points: Earn 8 points for every $1 spent in stores & online. Once you have earned 1,000 points, you can redeem your points for discounts on any product or pet service
- Exclusive Deals & Discounts: Get deals and discounts available only to Treats members
- Birthday Gifts for Pets: Create an online profile for your pet and receive a free gift for your pet’s birthday
- Free Shipping: Get free shipping on orders over $49
- Free Doggie Day Camp session: When you buy 10, get 1 free
Both Petco and PetSmart refuse to sell dogs or cats and promote adoption instead. That is the good news.
The bad news is that they both sell other live animals such as hamsters, gerbils, chinchilla, guinea pigs, and more. Both of them also sell animals that can be used as live foods – rats, mice, and crickets.
As far as ethics go, there is not much of a difference between Petco and PetSmart.
Based on these facts, we would say it is a tie. There isn’t any substantial difference between the two. Their average prices are comparable. They both offer a price match guarantee. On the other hand, prices for individual products can differ quite a bit – 15% or more. So you should always comparison shop before you buy.
In other areas such as rewards, training classes, grooming services, and ethics, the 2 chains are also mostly similar with some minor differences. For example, only Petco offers online training classes and only PetSmart offers grooming services for cats.
The best pet store is the pet store that works best for you. So go and try both these stores (and other stores as well) and see which one works best for you.