Man’s best friend becomes retail’s best customer
How the evolution of families have changed pet ownership
Fur baby. Dog mom. Dog dad. From photo frames in pet aisles to hashtags on social media, there’s no denying that people love their pets. Even UPS drivers have some competition (on Halloween at least) when it comes to these four-legged friends.
The American Pet Products Association reports that pet product supplies skyrocketed from $17 billion in 1994 to more than $100 billion for the first time in history. Of course, the profits are not all Halloween costumes and eye-catching outfits for Christmas postcards. While $42 billion of pet profits are from dog food and treats, the rest are for primary needs: $31.4 billion for veterinary care and $22.1 billion for supplies and over-the-counter medicine.
The Atlantic confirms that Millennials overtook Boomers as the largest pet-owning cohort of Americans in 2020; more than half of them have a dog.
One area where numbers declined was in grooming, dogwalking and dogboarding. With pet owners at home more than usual during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, there was a decrease of 21.4% (or $8.1 billion) during quarantine. However, pets are still making a “doggone” impact as families evolve—from single-parent households to married households and beyond.
Evolution of homes, evolution of pet households
The 2020 Census Bureau reports that there are 14.84 million families with a single mother in the U.S.; 6.5 million families with a single father in the US. The decline in two-married-parent households has created a boost in single-parent homes, but there’s also the matter of younger generations being less likely to marry early.
For example, millennials (a group most likely to have pets) said they love their pets more than their siblings (57%). Parents didn’t catch a break either. In a Consumer Affairs study, 50% said the same about their mothers and 30% loved their pets more than their partners. One in four would put their car up for sale to save a pet from a life-saving procedure.
To no one’s surprise, some millennials are holding off on marriage altogether for various reasons—fear of divorce, preferring to get to know their partner more, getting finances in order and to accumulate wealth. That has not stopped them from the commitment of pet ownership though. The Atlantic confirms that Millennials overtook Boomers as the largest pet-owning cohort of Americans in 2020; more than half of them have a dog.
Pet owners’ buy is bigger than their bite
So with a buying generation that clearly puts their dog first, retailers are taking notice of this new customer base. First things first, they are still paying attention to both the baby boomer generation and millennials. This includes pet travel, helping consumers cater to their pet diagnosed with anxiety and “activating, engaging and building tools to reach pet parents.”
Technology has been one of the leading factors in making the pet industry more accessible (and profitable) in today’s consumer generation. In the 1840s, the pet marketing industry started with birds. It wasn’t until the 1920s that department stores started embracing the idea of pet supplies. And nowadays, pet owners don’t even have to leave home to buy their pet essentials.
Chewy, which was found in 2011, made $3.35 billion in revenue before the company went public and was purchased by PetSmart in an initial public offering of $8.7 billion. Unfortunately, as has been common with many online and in-person retailers, ongoing supply chain and labor constraints, as well as inflation, has affected its profits since the pandemic—with a 27.9% loss in 2021. However, year-to-date website traffic growth increased by 23.49% compared to 2020. While pet owners may have to shop around until supply-and-demand are more in alignment, those dogs are here to stay!
And for pet-loving consumers who want the best for their animals, finding the best bargain can be an even better way to get in good with their pets.
Writer’s Note: This post was originally published as an Upwork freelancer for RETHINK Retail. It has been significantly updated and also available on “Window Shopping.”
Shamontiel is a dog lover to her core: 500 completed walks with 84 dogs, eight dog-housesittings and six dog boardings at the time of this publication.
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