business

Chewy CEO Sumit Singh Says Online Pet Retailer Wants to Evoke Same Feelings as Disney World

Andrew Kelly | Reuters
  • Chewy CEO Sumit Singh said the now publicly traded company wants to hold on to the corporate culture that drew customers when it was a start-up.
  • The online pet retailer developed a cult following for its fast shipping and automatic deliveries of food and supplies.
  • The company went public roughly nine months before the pandemic struck and inspired a pet boom.

Chewy CEO Sumit Singh said Tuesday he wants ordering dog food — and even getting a delivery of cat litter — to feel a little like going to Disney World.

At a CNBC Evolve virtual event, Singh said the online pet retailer is focused on leaving an impression.

"Remember the first time that you went to Disney and you had such a great experience and then you were like 'I wish I could go back again,' and you had a great experience again?" he told CNBC's Courtney Reagan. "It's about these compounding, amplifying experiences that just drives consumers back and builds loyalty over time. I think that's what we're really all about."

Chewy was founded about a decade ago and became one of the fastest-growing e-commerce sites, with a built-in cult following and recurring revenue through auto-shipped orders. The start-up was acquired by brick-and-mortar retailer PetSmart for $3.35 billion in 2017. But PetSmart spun off the online business, and it went public in June 2019. Roughly nine months after Chewy made its debut, the pandemic struck and fueled a pet boom.

Singh, who was named Chewy's CEO in 2018, said concerns about customer service and company culture still keep him up at night. He said he wants to hold on to the qualities that drew customers in the early days, such as speedy shipping and a commitment to innovation.

But the retailer, he said, also is looking for ways to go the extra mile — and sometimes, the extra set of stairs.

Singh told the story of an older customer who called Chewy, saying she needed help getting her bulky, soon-to-arrive package up to her New York City apartment. One of its employees researched options. Ultimately, Singh said, the employee ordered a pizza for the woman — and tipped the deliveryman extra to carry the Chewy order up the stairs.

"Not only did we deliver a free pizza, we actually delivered her that box in a time when she needed it the most," he said, with a laugh.

Chewy's shares hit an all-time high of $120 in mid-February, but have dropped off since then. The stock closed at $92.10 on Tuesday afternoon. Shares are up about 2.5% this year.

The company will report its fiscal second-quarter earnings Sept. 1.

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