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Petco’s transformation begins with purpose

Retail Gets Real Episode 298: Petco’s Ron Coughlin on the brand’s transformation into a health and wellness company

Petco has helped find homes for more than 6.5 million animals and saves approximately 400,000 pet lives a year, but it’s still not enough, according to CEO Ron Coughlin.

“My final mission is to eliminate unnecessary euthanasia,” Coughlin says on this week’s episode of Retail Gets Real, recorded on-site at NRF 2023: Retail’s Big Show in New York City. “One million pets get unnecessarily euthanized every year and it just doesn’t have to be.”

Coughlin is clearly a pet lover. He brought a dog available for adoption to his fireside chat onstage at NRF 2023 and his 15-year-old yellow lab Yummy was Petco’s Chief Dog Officer until he passed away in October.

NRF 2023

Did you miss us in NYC? Take a look at our NRF 2023: Retail's Big Show event recap.

Coughlin is also an experienced leader, having served in senior positions at HP and PepsiCo. When Coughlin took the Petco position in 2018, he was tasked with transforming the company. He began by simplifying metrics, creating accountability and authority for employees and managers, bringing in world-class talent and focusing on customer needs that the company could fulfill better than its competitors.

Pet owners want all their pet needs under one roof, Coughlin says: “Around 54% of pet parents want a one-stop shop.” For Petco, that now includes an in-house veterinarian, pet pharmacy and grooming facilities as well as food and supplies. “We can then move that data around the franchise and that’s powerful,” Coughlin says, giving Petco the opportunity to personalize service and recommendations.

Coughlin also “turned the company upside down … and what that means is I’m at the bottom and the team members are at the top.” He says he wants to empower employees to ask for whatever they need to better serve the customer — whether it’s fixing a broken register or putting a parental leave policy in place.

“If they think they’re at the bottom, then they’re afraid to ruffle feathers and get loud,” Coughlin says. “My point is … call me, call a store leader. It needs to be fixed. You need to take care of customers.”

Listen to the full podcast to hear about Coughlin’s career journey, Petco’s strong culture and mission, the growth of rural communities as a pet market and how pets helped Americans get through the pandemic.

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