Sales Of Pet Supplies Defy Economy

Despitepet bed the tepid economy, U.S. retail sales of non-food pet supplies totaled $11.1 billion in 2011, up 2% over 2010, according to a Packaged Facts report.

From a high of 5% in 2007, annual sales gains slowed during the economic recession of 2008-2009 and its aftermath but still continued to make gains.

Packaged Facts is predicting a gradually improving showing for pet supplies as pent-up demand finally begins to kick in. The biggest external factor remains the economy, which is expected to continue to gradually strengthen.

A number of market factors also point to a return to healthier growth including the industry’s success in playing up the human-animal bond to drive higher-ticket, sales of premium products, the strong market presence of upper-income households who are willing and able to spend heavily on pet supplies, and the growing population of pets with specialized health needs, especially senior and overweight dogs and cats. 

Another good sign is the ongoing expansion of the pet specialty channel, which indicates increasing interest in all things pet, including at the key super-premium end of the spending spectrum.

 Close partnerships with retailers are more essential than ever for any product marketer hoping to thrive in the U.S. pet supplies market, said David Sprinkle, publisher of Packaged Facts.

Some manufacturer/marketer-retailer relationships are so close that the brands appear to be a few steps away from private label. The best example of this trend is PetSmart’s “exclusive brand” strategy, which includes affinity arrangements with brands and marketers including Martha Stewart, Kong, GNC, Toys “R” Us and Bret Michaels.

Walmart also is active in forming strong relationships with vendors, teaming up with pet supplies companies including Worldwise, which fields an extensive line of eco-friendly pet products including bedding and toys.

Although the mass-market/pet specialty divide remains, more and more marketers of pet supplies are finding they can’t afford to not be in both channels.  Marketers also continue to expand into less traditional channels, including value-oriented retailers like dollar stores and wholesale clubs, and premium channels like home stores and department stores. 

At the same time, more companies are crossing the border between pet food and non-food pet supplies. The most common avenue of cross-over into food is via treats, with companies including Kong and Nylabone branching out from chew toys and non-edible chews into the pet treats segment and also into supplies. Kong is now offering non-edible products like leashes to the tune of $20-plus.

The ultimate blurring, however, is that between humans and pets.  Many of the products entering the U.S pet supplies market are directly reminiscent of human fare, appealing to pet owner as much as pet.   

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