The COVID-19 pandemic did nothing to stop the continuous growth of the pet care category at mass retail. In fact, sales grew at a faster rate during almost all of the pandemic as home-bound consumers bought more pets to occupy their time.
According to the American Pet Products Association, based in Stamford, Conn., overall pet sales, including sales at vets grew by 6.7% over the last year and have eclipsed the $100 billion a year mark. Just eight years ago, sales of pet items, including food and pet care, had just topped the $50 billion a year mark.
“Our view is that this trend stems for the fact that more people are working from home and have a greater desire to own a pet, care for them better and do what is necessary for the pet to have a great life,” said Steve King, president and CEO of APPA. “People are just spending more time with their pets and that translates into a desire to take care of them better. That means more pet toys, pet care and a willingness to spend more money on better quality pet food.”
King and others stress that the trend is going past the dog and cat markets. More people are getting involved with fish, birds and reptiles and the result is a big uptick in sales of pet homes and aquariums.
But the dog and cat markets are growing at a rapid rate too. Consumers, even during the pandemic and slowdown in store visits, did not stop buying products for their pets. And, some say they actually paid a lot more attention to what they are buying and are much more willing to choose different items than they used in the past.
“We are finding that consumers during the pandemic are more willing to switch to other items and experiment,” said one pet buyer for a grocery chain. “Sometimes that was due to the fact that we had out of stocks, sometimes people were looking for better price points and sometimes they wanted to improve quality.”
To satisfy this trend, which some say will continue, retailers will have to expand their pet selection, adding more items, covering more price points and be willing to educate the shopper at the point of sale. Private label, some say, will also play a larger role as consumers seek new items and the ability to choose from different price points.