Pet Friendly? Why Catering to Pets Makes Cents
By Michael Stumpf, May 2008
here are an estimated 71 million pets living The American Pet Products Manufacturing Asso-
in nearly two-thirds of all households in the ciation estimates that consumers spent $41.2 bil-
United States. While this is substantially lion on their pets in 2007. Spending in 2008 is ex-
more than in the past, in both the number of pets pected to top $43 billion. About $10 billion of this
overall and the percentage of homes that shelter will be spent on pet supplies. Food purchases are
them, the more important story here is in our rela- the biggest expenditure ($16 billion) and just like
tionship with our pets. Pets are no longer viewed in the human market, natural and organic pet food
as simply an animal. They have become a member is one of the fastest-growing segments, especially
of the family. That change has had a powerful im- after pet food contamination scares in 2007.
pact on how we relate to our pets, what we do
This certainly presents an opportunity for retail-
with them, and how we spend to support them.
ers. While the market is dominated by large com-
Businesses and communities that realize this have
panies like Petco and PetSmart, there are count-
a new opportunity to use this information to in-
less smaller chains, independent retailers, and
crease their bottom line.
service providers who have enjoyed the trend.
According to a recent survey by the American Many of these businesses are found in traditional
Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), 94 percent downtown and neighborhood business districts.
of people believe their pet has human-like person-
Other retailers have cashed in by carrying a selec-
ality traits (an a majority of people would prefer to
tion of items catering to pet owners. Grocery
be stranded on a deserted island with their pet in-
stores are one example. Food accounts for the
stead of their spouse!). As this emotional bond
largest share of pet purchases, and AC Neilsen re-
with our pets has grown we have projected our
search has shown that parents of pets typically
own desires and aspirations onto them, reflected
spend 16 to 27 percent more at the grocery store
in our spending on pet foods and other products,
than other customers. Pet products can be found
veterinary care, and grooming. Dog owners, for
in stores as diverse as Walgreen’s, Home Depot,
instance, increased their spending by 38 percent
and Old Navy.
between 1997 and 2002.
Michael Stumpf is a consultant in community planning, economic development, and
1 market analysis, based in New Berlin, Wisconsin.