When Americans actually start cutting back on accouterments for their family pets, you know the economy is bad.
We're not talking pet food or prescription and other vet-sold-only treatments here -- just supplies, including items such as cat litter; cat/dog chews, toys, grooming products, bedding, collars and flea/tick control and supplement products; and maintenance items and treats for other small pets like birds, fish and herptiles (a/k/a reptiles and amphibians).
Still, sales of these supplies grew by a relatively modest 2.5%, to $10.7 billion, last year -- compared to a cumulative sales gain of 17.6% between 2005 and 2009 (or a CAGR of 4.1%), according to the new edition of "Pet Supplies and Pet Care Products in the U.S." from Packaged Facts.
The relative slowing within the pet supplies sector comes down to trends that likewise impacted so many marketers of products for humans: Reduced consumer spending in non-essential categories, coupled with trading down to lower-priced offerings and value-oriented retail channels, according to the PF report.
However, PF predicts a slight uptick in the growth rate this year "as pent-up demand begins to kick in," and a growth rate reaching 5% within the next four to five years.
"The word 'restraint' will continue to characterize how Americans shop and what they buy, making pet product appeals based on practicality, professionalism, health, safety, convenience and comfort more important than ever in wooing the nation's 61 million pet-owning households and meeting the needs of their nearly 400 million pets," summed up Packaged Facts publisher Don Montuori.
At the same time, a 2.5% growth rate was, of course, relatively healthy by overall 2009 standards -- speaking to the power of the human/animal bond as "an insulator against recessionary cutbacks," point out PF's analysts.
Furthermore, humans falling into the "premium demographics" sector will continue to pay particularly close attention to labels and health claims and be willing to pay more for pet products (including supplies and non-meal treats) that ensure their pets' optimum health and safety -- another important growth indicator for the category, say the analysts.