Pet Care & The Pandemic: What happened and where is the industry now?
Posted: 07/21/2020 | Author: Angela Ozar for Creatives On Call
Interested in some insights on the Pet Care industry during and caused by COVID-19? Creatives On Call has kept an eye on this industry and would love to unpack some of our findings. Additionally, we work with a plethora of creative professionals that specialize in the Pet Care industry who could help to hit the target audience for your business. Reach out, we’d love to chat.
Pet Care: Past & Present
It’s rumored that the pet care industry is recession-proof, deemed an essential business. After all, pets are in many ways like an extension of the family, treated and cared for like children. Recession or not.
In the 2008 recession, the average household spending on pet care declined by 12% in 2010, before quickly rebounding to 5% growth from 2011-2012. Industry leaders can only predict the short-term and long-term effects of the pandemic based on what happened in the years following the 2008 recession. However, a pandemic is a different story as the whole world has discovered.
Every industry has been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another. Pet care is no exception. Pre-COVID-19 the industry was expected to grow by 5%. Now, Package Facts forecasts U.S. pet products and services will decline by 17%, with non-medical pet services incurring the largest blow.
This makes sense as pet owners had to skip on grooming services, vet visits, and boarding services because they were quarantined to their homes. These sectors of the industry along with small business brick and mortar locations undoubtedly suffered.
Although overall sales declined, the pandemic gave people a bug to become new pet parents. And these new pet owners needed supplies for their new additions.
Increase in Adoptions & Foster Care
Animals have been proven to help those who have experienced emotional trauma or have a mental illness.
Pets make excellent quarantine buddies. People who needed a mental health boost opted to be isolated with a furry friend instead of bearing the isolation alone.
Pet adoption and fostering surged at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders caused by the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
As business started to close, pet adoption and foster care centers were forced to close as well. People stepped up to provide homes for homeless cats, dogs, and other animals, even if just temporarily.
ASPCA and the Humane Society, among other organizations, were blown away by the response and compassion to care for pets without a home. ASPCA reported cities such as New York City and Los Angeles saw a 70% increase in pets going into foster care from the same period last year.
And more pets means more food. Quarantine or not, pets still need to eat just like their human caregivers do. Naturally, pet food sales soared.
Pet Food Mitigates Industry Losses
Pet food, the industry's largest sector, is expected to grow by 4% this year. This helps to offset some of the industry losses. However, this is a 2% decline from the pre-coronavirus sales forecast for 2020 of 6%.
An increase in pet adoptions contributed to the increase in food sales from the new dog and cat parents, as well as the stockpiling that took place. Since brick and mortar locations were closing, the only option was to buy pet care supplies online.
Pet product e-commerce was already growing before COVID-19 hit and it continues to rise. Online pet product sales are expected to continue to grow to 24% market share and 26.5% by 2024.
Online pet retailers experienced an increase in demand and scrambled to fulfill orders. Nearly 20% of pet owners said they bought more food online than they usually would.
The growth in pet food sales, especially online, helped to ease the losses of other parts of the pet care industry such as in-store sales and pet care services.
Direct-to-Consumer Skyrockets in Pet Care
When shelter-in-place orders were announced there was stockpiling of groceries and home products. Household pets were not left off the grocery list. In early to mid-March, almost 65% of consumers reported they bought enough pet food for a month.
Many purchased from direct-to-consumer (DTC) companies. DTC has been an increasing trend in the grocery industry for its efficiency and convenience. Unsurprisingly, during months where most of the nation was quarantined to their homes, DTC was even more appealing.
DTC pet brands took a larger share of the market. Our sales have doubled since the lockdown started, said Tails.com founder. Tails.com is a tailored-made pet food subscription service like Ollie and Tailored Pet.
The Coronavirus simply gave DTC and designer pet food companies that were already trending even more of a lift in subscribers and orders.
Retailer Innovation & Digital-First Brands
A crisis is where opportunity and innovation are born. There has been creativity and innovation from companies across all industries adapting to the new regulations brought on by COVID-19.
The new world is a breeding ground for pet care startups, filling gaps in the market. Digital-first pet brands are thriving.
In 2018, Wakefield did a study and found that 69% of Millennials keep track of their pets through technology. Millennials have embraced technology to care for their pets and now the rest of the word has, too.
Brick and mortar pet stores are making changes to compete with completely digital companies. The retailers who already had an omnichannel presence before COVID-19 were best set up for success.
Pet shops had to innovate as other retailers and restaurants have done with online ordering and curbside pick-up. Limited store hours and cutting non-essential item ordering such as toys and apparel are just some of the tactics pet stores had to put in place.
Pet big-box retailers got creative with blending a physical store location and an online presence. And digital-first pet brands swooped in to gain market share while the opportunity was hot.
The Future of Pet Care with COVID-19
It’s difficult to say what the future holds. Pet care is poised to take the wake of COVID-19 well. The industry has been on a growth trajectory. There is hope it will pull through with ease. Overall, the biggest trend here, is seeing how uncertainty impacts industries, which we get further into in our previous blog here.
The increase in adoption and foster care should be promising for a rebound that could be even better than 2008.
Will pet food and e-commerce sales be able to carry the industry through the pandemic? Only time will tell. The one thing that will never change is a love for man’s best friend.
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