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'We are the pharmacy, we are the supermarket for pets': Petco CEO provides strong outlook amid COVID-19

Ron Coughlin, Petco CEO, joins Yahoo Finance’s The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss the recent boom in e-commerce, its response to the coronavirus pandemic and much more.

Video Transcript

BRIAN SOZZI: As many of us continue to stay at home during this pandemic, it's making room for new companions in our life. This year, the US is seeing a surge in pet ownership-- up 4% so far. Here to discuss that more is Petco CEO Ron Coughlin. Ron, good too good to see you this morning. So walk us through your business. We've seen a lot of the online players in the pet supply space doing pretty well. How is Petco doing?

RON COUGHLIN: Yeah, we're doing fantastic, and it starts with safety. The number one priority for us is to make sure that our partners are staying safe. We've shipped thousands of gallons of sanitizers, football fields of masks, and we have one-third the COVID penetration in our team than national average. After that, it's about taking care of pets. And our business is up double-digits right now. And it's a mix of what's happening in the stores, which are growing, and what's happening with our online assets.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: I want to talk about what's happening online, because, first of all, how many of your stores have been able to reopen? I'd imagine curbside pickup is a big deal. But how much has e-commerce, you know, grown during this time? And what sort of resources are you putting at play there?

RON COUGHLIN: Yeah. So first, we've been open through the pandemic. And our folks were heroic. We were deemed essential. We are the pharmacy. We are the drugstore. We are the supermarket for pets. So we were open throughout. We had different formats. For example, in New York, we have we call the deli counter format, where you basically came to the front, and we shopped for you. And then in other areas, we flexed to different formats.

At the same time, our e-commerce business is up over 100%. And you're right, Alexis-- a lot of curbside pickup is happening. We launched curbside pickup in two weeks, and it's been a fantastic offer for us. But one of the things we saw is a lot of people talk about retail as a problem category. Our stores were an asset, because we had inventory next to customers.

So we have ship from store next to customers. We had product where they could do curbside pickup where some of our online competitors really struggled through COVID to supply.

BRIAN SOZZI: I went on your site, Ron, and you're selling masks for pets, for obvious reasons. But are you seeing pet parents concerned about their pets contracting COVID-19? Are you seeing a pickup in certain, I guess, medications?

RON COUGHLIN: Very little. I mean, yes, we are so-- we're selling more grooming. Right now, you can't even get an appointment. It's very difficult. It's out four to six weeks in many of our salons. But there's some anecdotes about pets getting COVID-- a couple of cases that seem to have been confirmed,. But there are millions and millions, unfortunately, with humans, and very little with pets. So we really don't see that as a major concern. And we have a board of veterinarians who guide us on these types of views. And they see little issue there.

BRIAN SOZZI: Ron, you're still-- Petco is still a private company as part of that February 2016 deal with CVC. But you have to have watched the market reception to Chewy's IPO. I mean, the stock has gone up in a straight line. Is an IPO in the works for you?

RON COUGHLIN: Yeah. I'm very happy working with CVC and CBP, the Canadian pension fund. At the same time, we're growing double-digits. And when you're growing double-digits, you get choices. But we don't comment beyond that.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Are there going to be any more raises? Do you need to-- what's the cash situation like at your company right now?

RON COUGHLIN: We have zero-- zero cash. We pulled out our revolver early, and we've paid that back. So we have zero cash issues. As I said, we're growing double-digits. But one thing we are doing is as the company has done better, we've invested back with our employees. So we're on, I think, our fourth round of COVID appreciation bonuses. We're right around $20 million. We're giving back to our employees on top of their normal wages, because it is a tough environment to be working in.

And as I tell them all the time, as the company does better, you're going to do better. I'm very proud that we have made those investments. And we also put $2 million into an employee assistance fund. So you might be fine with Petco, but your spouse might have gotten laid off. And so we put $2 million in an assistance fund. Our board members contributed, our executive team contributed, and we've given out over a thousand awards for Petco employees that are in need.

BRIAN SOZZI: Hard not to ask this one-- Ron, how many pets do you have?

RON COUGHLIN: I have one. His name's Yummy, a yellow lab. And he's the love of our family.

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, that is definitely good to hear. Ron, real quickly before I let you go, how many stores do you have open right now in terms of percentage? How many have you been able to reopen?

RON COUGHLIN: We've been reopened since minute one. So we are open in over 1,400 locations. And as I said, we were deemed essential. So our team has soldiered through a tough environment. But I'm really proud because less than a third of the COVID penetration amongst our population-- we deal with customers all day long. So we've done a nice job on safety.

BRIAN SOZZI: Let's leave it there. Petco CEO Ron Coughlin, good to see you-- have a good rest of the week.

RON COUGHLIN: Thank you for having me.