Online Pet Supply Retailing

Posted: 20 May 2009

See all articles by Tom Nicholas

Tom Nicholas

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit

David Chen

Harvard Business School

Date Written: April 9, 2009

Abstract

From 1995 to 1999, the U.S. experienced a period of tremendous growth in its information technology (IT) sector. The IT industry, although it accounted for less than 10% of the U.S. economy's total output, contributed disproportionately to economic growth. One market that was particularly contentious was online pet supply retailing. Pet supply retailing had an estimated worth of $31 billion in 1997, and in the late 1990s, several startups and brick-and-mortar-based companies launched online retail stores, hoping to become the premiere (and perhaps the only) online pet supplies retailer. Two companies emerged as pure play frontrunners: Oakland-based Petstore.com and San Francisco-based Pets.com. In the years that followed, online pet supply retailers were widely regarded by the media as epitomizing the excesses and the follies of dot-com speculative mania in the late 1990s that culminated in the 2000 stock market crash. In 2008, CNet pronounced Pets.com as one of the greatest dot-com disasters in history. But what led to the failure, and subsequent crucifixion, of these one-time media darlings? Were Petstore.com and Pets.com the victim of poor strategic decisions, a prohibitive and crowded market, investor attitudes that destroyed their chances of success, or perhaps just bad luck or bad timing?

Suggested Citation

Nicholas, Tom and Chen, David, Online Pet Supply Retailing (April 9, 2009). HBS Case No. 809-117; Harvard Business School Entrepreneurial Management Unit. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1407528

Tom Nicholas (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Entrepreneurial Management Unit ( email )

Cambridge, MA 02163
United States

David Chen

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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