The days are over when 10-year-old Billy down the street opened a few cans of dog food for Fido while the neighbors were on vacation. Now, pet owners look online for pricey dog sitters with fancy credentials, scour TripAdvisor for hotels that cater to pets, or even book a pet-friendly cruise. As we treat animals more and more like people, it’s hard to tell pet-focused products and services from human ones. Guess which of these five pet services actually exists?
1. A restaurant that offers additional menu items for pets
2. A supermarket cart with a compartment especially for dogs
3. Beer brewed just for dogs, and wine made especially for cats, so pets can share a drink with their owners
4. A walk-through dog wash
5. A pet taxi service to drive pets to their vet and grooming appointments
Actually, all of these products and services are real, according to a Mintel Trends report. The speed at which an old industry is learning new tricks is amazing. Instead of just throwing the dog a stick, we do it while he’s wearing an electronic tracker that monitors his activity level, weight and blood pressure. And, right in the thick of all this pet consumerism are the Boomers. In 2015, Americans spent $60 billon on furry companions, and a lot of that came out of Boomer pockets. Millennials may be nipping at their heels, but a recent Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Expenditure survey found that Boomers still spend more on their pets than does any other generation.
As Baby Boomer nests empty, they replace their two-legged children with four-legged ones and start the parenting cycle all over again. No wonder pet services have names like “Doggie Daycare,” “Kitty Play Dates” and “Pet Tutor.” Will Pet SAT Prep be far behind? Boomer “pet parents” (as they’re called in the pet biz) are unleashing their financial resources on everything from toys and treats to training and grooming.
Some famous Boomers are known for taking their beloved pets everywhere. According to one source, Oprah Winfrey’s dog has been her date for the Oscars, and Vladimir Putin has brought his dog along to meetings with world leaders. Meanwhile, ordinary Boomer folk still have plenty of options for hanging out with their pets, like taking them to work through new pet-friendly policies or going on pet-ernity leave to bond with the new arrival.
What are some other hot pet trends?
Sleep: A mattress company has designed special mattresses for pets.
Food: According to Petfoodindustry.com, pet specialty food items grew 5% from 2014 to 2015. Popular buzzwords: GMO-free, natural, antibiotic-free and sustainability.
Tech: From electronic gadgets to train dogs to stop excessive barking to face-to-face video communications, tech is changing the way we raise our pets.
Health: According to an August 2015 Mintel pet owners report, today’s owners want their pets to be as healthy and well-adjusted as possible. Over 40% of owners would buy pet health insurance, 34% would spring for professional grooming, and 16% would even pay for a pet behaviorist.
As Boomers age, will their pet spending dwindle? People typically own fewer pets as they get older, but some studies have shown that Boomers are breaking with this tradition. And marketers can always target Boomers who need extra help caring for pets in their retirement years. With pet-friendly residential policies, modern dog parks and services like pet grooming, feeding and walking, retirement communities have a huge potential for taking a bite out of the thriving pet market.