Know anyone who has bought a "pandemic pet"? Walmart wants to lend a hand in helping consumers take care of—and insure—their furry mid-COVID companions. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer announced Thursday the launch of Walmart Pet Care, which introduces discounted pet insurance plans as well as pet-sitting and dog-walking services.
Pet insurance is now available through a partnership with Petplan, an injury and illness insurance provider for dogs and cats. Walmart customers can save up to 10% on policies purchased through Walmart Pet Insurance, the company stated in a news release. Coverage includes access to $1,000 in virtual vet visits—a perk that may offer peace of mind not only to pet owners skittish about veterinary visits as COVID-19 cases surge across the country but also consumers in rural areas without easy access to nearby veterinary offices this winter.
On the pet-care side, boarding, pet-sitting and dog-walking services will be provided through Rover, a website and app that can connect pet owners with a network of more than 300,000 dog-walkers and pet sitters nationwide, according to Walmart. The retailer is looking to entice consumers to try Rover by offering a $20 Walmart gift card upon consumers’ first completed booking with the service and an additional $20 gift card for those who complete five services within six months.
Walmart Pet Care also encompasses the retailer's existing Walmart PetRx in-store and online pharmacy services, launched in 2019.
In its news release, Walmart describes the Walmart Pet Care brand as "a full-service, omnichannel pet care offering that makes holistic care easy, simple and affordable." The retailer's play to be a one-stop shop for all things pet-related comes at the end of a year that has seen both surging pet adoptions and shifts in pet-products buying behaviors. Responding to demand for contactless shopping options, rivals Petco and PetSmart added curbside pickup in the spring. Online pet-product specialist Chewy.com, which is no longer being split off from parent company PetSmart for the moment, debuted "Connect With a Vet" telehealth services nationwide in October.
Walmart's latest investment in the strongly performing pet category also comes as retailers and analysts expect healthy sales of pet items this holiday season. Deloitte, in its 2020 holiday retail survey, found that 50% of shoppers plan to spend on pets (including purchases of pet food/treats, décor and supplies) this holiday season; those who do expect to spend about $90 on pet items.