Editor’s Note: Last year our single most popular trends article was about the pet industry. So we invited the author, Laura Bennett, CEO of Embrace Pet Insurance (pictured left), back for this guest post to update us on pet industry trends for 2008. Perhaps this article will trigger ideas for businesses you can start or larger companies you can partner up with.
By Laura Bennett
The 2008 economics for pet-related small businesses will be affected by a continuing increase in pet-related spending, higher awareness of pet health, greater uptake of pet insurance, and continued humanization of pets, integrating them into all aspects of our lives. Trends include:
1. Pet parents continue to upgrade their purchases
Spending on pet supplies and over-the-counter medicines continues to increase with $9.9 billion projected to be spent in 2007, an increase of 6.5% over 2006, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers’ Association (APPMA). Spending in 2008 will likely exceed $10.5 billion. People will continue to spend above and beyond on their pets as the population ages and pets take the place of children at home. Pet parents are upgrading necessities, such as food, leashes, and bedding, and some luxuries are not so unusual any more — how often do you see a dog dressed up to go out these days? High-end specialty pet stores continue to thrive despite competition from the big box stores as passionate pet owners look for selection, style, and a unique shopping experience.
2. Pet services for your pets grow in abundance
More than $2.9 billion dollars will be spent on pet services in 2007 according to the APPMA, which will likely continue to grow at around 7% for 2008. Again, pet parents are including their pets in their own lifestyles so visits to the spa, exercise regimes, and hotel-quality accommodations for day care are becoming more common place in urban areas. As we expected, we are seeing more services partnering together centered around pets, such as the Ritz-Carlton and the Barkley Pet Hotel and Day Spa providing pampering for your pet while you kick back in luxury. We also expect to see groomers, doggie daycares, pet hotels, pet insurance companies, lawyers providing pet trusts, and funeral homes providing services for pets also joining forces more and more in 2008.
3. Best friends in life and death
The year 2007 marked the death of Leona Helmsley and the $12 million trust fund she left for her dog, Trouble. New York is not the only state to allow money to be left to care for pets. In 2007, Ohio joined 37 other states plus the District of Columbia in passing a law allowing pet parents to set up pet trusts to take care of pets when they die. As the pet owning population ages, pet trusts will become more prominent. Greater awareness of how to provide for a pet after you are gone will lead to more and more elderly people keeping companion animals who might not have otherwise done so.
4. Growing interest in pet health care
Pet parents are taking control of their pets’ health care as they do their own children. Online resources continue to improve in quantity and quality (Wikipedia is a good place to start) and educated pet owners are arming themselves to guide their pets’ care. Technology from the human world continues to make its way into the veterinary tool kit including non-invasive surgeries, human medical devices and services being applied to pets, super-premium foods aimed at specific ailments, and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage, and behavioral therapies. High end diagnostics, such as MRIs, are becoming more widely available for pets. Online veterinary pharmaceuticals continue to grow but veterinarians are fighting back by dropping their own drug prices. Pet lovers want, and are demanding, the same treatment options for their pets as they can get for themselves.
5. Pet insurance starts to go mainstream
We estimate the 2007 market size for pet insurance in the U.S. to be approximately $195 million in premium, up from $161 million in 2006, a 21% increase, and we expect 2008 growth to increase. We know of at least 2 more companies launching in 2008, adding to the current 9 pet insurance providers in the U.S. One of these companies is a mainstream pet food brand that has had an interest in pet insurance for many years. New entrants with money is good news for the industry as bigger marketing budgets means increasing awareness for pet insurance in general. Look for some of the largest big box retailers to jump on the pet insurance bandwagon later in 2008, which will start to push the mass awareness required to take pet insurance mainstream.
6. Hybrids take center stage
If you see a rather woolly Labrador playing at your local dog park, it is more likely to be a planned hybrid called a Labradoodle than from an accidental litter. Hybrid dogs are muscling in on the purebred scene, much to the chagrin of some and the delight of others, and they are garnering a lot of attention from pet parents looking for something that might be the best of two breeds. The year 2007 saw the popularity of hybrids enter the mainstream (Puggles, Maltipoos and Golden Doodles are some examples) but 2008 will see the rapid growth of the puppy farm hybrid to take advantage of the inflated prices people are paying for these dogs.
The business environment will start to become more challenging as a multitude of new players enter the market. Savvy small businesses will take advantage of change to successfully place themselves uniquely in the market. Trends here include:
7. Increased competition from larger players
Larger companies are beginning to recognize the economic potential of the pet industry. Target and Walmart are both expanding their pet selection and using pets in their advertising. Big box pet specialty retailers, Petco and PetSmart, continue to grow. PetSmart is making a major push into pet hotels (with over 50 of a projected 435 open thus far). These companies continue to move into the full service arena to encourage one-stop shopping and customer loyalty.
8. Large companies buying smaller players or interacting with small businesses behind the scenes, via monetary investment and/or marketing alliances
Not only are the more obvious pet-related giants, such as Purina, Hills, and Iams engaged in this activity (for example, Iams owns an 8.9% interest in Veterinary Pet Insurance and Purina launched a pet insurance product in Canada in 2007), but also other more surprising companies such as paper product giant Kimberly Clark, which is very interested in expanding its revenue stream into the supermarket pet aisle.
9. Increased online sophistication from new pet-related businesses in ecommerce, design, and usability
Traditionally, small business websites have been set up by pet lovers with little thought on design, target audience, and content. Newer players, such as Pawspot noted last year, and DogCars new in 2007 (and we continue to love Urbanhound), are beginning to be more sophisticated in design and ecommerce, reaching their target audience via website usability, SEO, paid search, and word of mouth. These websites are still in the vast minority of a fragmented pet marketplace but gives a savvy small business an opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
10. Pet-related blogs continue to grow their influence.
If you ever doubted the power of blogs in the pet world, you only need look at the impact of blogs during the pet food recall in the middle of 2007. Blogs such as Itchmo, Pet Connection, and Pet Sit USA were deluged by literally millions of people looking for information on the recall. The bloggers responded with up to the minute information and constant pressure on the authorities as the situation unfolded. While the web hits have died down, these bloggers have been stepped up a notch in the eyes of pet parents looking for quality information.
And one final bonus trend that indicates the sentiment of the pet-related customer …
11. More people traveling with their pets
From day trips with the dogs in the back of the car, to trips abroad with your pets, more and more people are including their cats and dogs in their travels. As a result, more hotels, such as the Comfort Inn all the way up to the Westin are accommodating pets beyond just allowing them on the premises. This gives small businesses the opportunity to provide services to local hotels for pets or for accessories to make traveling even easier.
* * * * *About the author: Laura Bennett is the CEO of Embrace Pet Insurance. Over her career working in the insurance industry in Dublin, Ireland, and Toronto, Canada, she eventually landed in the United States where along with Alex Krooglik, the two of them founded Embrace Pet Insurance to combine their love of pets, the desire for entrepreneurship, and Laura’s expertise in the insurance industry. Laura also writes a blog on pet-related issues, the Embrace Pet Insurance blog.
One trend I would like to see come to my town is a pet wash center. I have seen several popping up lately. They are usually attached to a diy car wash center. Inside they have 2 or 3 stainless tubs to wash your dog in. They have ramps attached so that the dog can walk right into the tub. The tubs are elevated so you don’t have to bend over to bathe your dog. You just add quarters to it like a car wash. I think it’s a great idea and I would use it all the time.
I’ve been working in Life Insurance Canada for quite a few years, and although our clients are humans, I know that pet insurance in on the rise, too. And, no wonder. It is not surprising, because our beloved four-legged friends are becoming family members. Unfortunately our pets are as likely to become ill or to have an accident as any of our other loved ones, and in some cases more so. That is why I think that pet insurance would continue to be popular in the future.
It is my job to know what people are searching on and I must say, very few industry related search terms have risen as fast as “pet insurance”. Almost overnight thousands of people discovered that you could insure your pets and went online to search for more information.
It just proves, we love those who love us back the most.
Terry, it is very interesting. And even if I don’t know much about SEO, I am very interested in learning more about it. How can you tell that pet insurance wasn’t a popular serch term and that now it is? And when you say ‘almost overnigtht’, can you say approximately when did it happen?
I am a writer for National Pet Press, and one of the things that I have noticed among pet owers is the fact that many are no longer willing to trust large corporations that produce pet products. They certainly do not trust any imported from China. Many lost faith in chemical corportion products over the last few years. Instead of being spoon fed by advertising, pet people are doing a little research.
Three years ago I started a small company, Star of the Evening Inc, which imports a precious oil from Italy to manufacture natural skin/health care products for both humans and pets. I never thought that one pet product would take over our company. The consumers/retailers are begging us to introduce new pet products. There is a huge demand for safe, natural skin care products for pets.
Pet Travel Center
Speaking of traveling with pets, PetTravelCenter.com offers worldwide pet travel resources, including pet-friendly hotels and other accommodations and lots of tips and information to make pet travel “fun and easy.” It should be included in your #9 listing of sites that are well designed, easily navigable and SEO friendly.
One of the biggest trends I see, is increased expectations in health care for our pets. So many of us petlovers are beginning to think that fido or whiskers deserves the same standard of healthcare for our animals as ourselves. And rightly so. We often times value our pets as we would our own children, why would we settle for anything less than the best in healthcare the pet industry has to offer?
Two years ago I had the idea to start an online dog training company where people from all “walks of dogs” could go to get unbiased and quality education about dog health, dog behavior, dog training, and dog sports. I never realized how big it would grow! I now have over 100 courses and 30 some trainers with Instructors and Students from all over the world. I guess we just assume that dog training and help is available to everyone. It’s not. Some people also want to know how to train their own dog, in their own home. Check us out! You will be amazed at this online university: e-trainingfordogs.com
As an independent sales rep. I have noticed that it is becoming more important to offer products to my stores that are made In the U.S.A., recycled or biodegradable. Stores are also always interested in supporting a local company, made in Colorado. The other product category that is getting a lot of attention is travel items such as car and cargo protectors, travel bowls, travel packs, foldable crates etc. Finally, in our present economy food prices have sky rocketed. Many of my stores are focusing on products that are at a competitive price point.
I am going into the pet business and I am interested in also the insurance for pets as well. Do you have to be licensed to sell dog insurance?
do you need a license to sell dog insurance. I am starting a new business
You do need to be licensed to sell pet insurance, however you can partner with a pet insurance company to represent them without writing policies
I am going to run a small pet store. And my head products are beds & bags. I want to know the trends for these two kinds products in 2008. What style or material may popular nowaday? Please let me know.
My husband and I own Lake Edge Cottages, a small resort north east of Toronto. We’re a 4-Season Pet-Friendly Resort and have been operating as such since 1997. When we first started as pet-friendly people said we were crazy. We were one of only a handful of accommodations that allowed pets. It’s the best thing we ever did and now look who is becoming pet-friendly…just about everyone from the Ritz down to small B&B’s. But of course, Lake Edge is still the best!
As far as beds and bags go – i would recommend keeping in mind that the economy is effecting all of us; what seems to be trendy right now is a modern look and feel, but something that is also versatile. Something that pet owners see themselves using for a long time to come, and something that will hold up well to that long-time use.
Now, not to contradict myself, but more important then general trends are trends in your area. You should do some research on the store location – local incomes and trends. See what the people stores are selling; trends towards humanization mean that anything that people want for themselves they also want for their pets.
I am looking for Pet companies in the US who may be looking at expanding their products to the UK.
Basically I want to emigrate to the Saint Petersburg Fl area, I have been in the pet industry most of my working life, and would like to remain in the trade. I have an excellent sales background, and an extensive database of contacts for UK wholesales pet store chains etc.
Unfortunately I do require sponsorship, or an intra company transfer, but I could guarantee the company who employs me my best attention at all times.
If anyone has any information, please contact me email@example.com
Puttin’ On The Dog began in 2007. We specialize in custom designing upscale, quality pet jewelry for furry pet friends everywhere. These products are mostly one of a kind and sold exclusively through our web site. The pet jewelry collection is made so dogs of all sizes could have their place in the pampered spotlight.
Each piece of our jewelry is uniquely designed using lots of sparkling beads, Swarovski crystal and pearls, freshwater pearls, and precious and semi-precious stones.
My web site has been up for a couple of months and I just yesterday, received my first order. Any suggestions on where to promote without spending a fortune. I’ve
invested a large some just in materials to make these products and another large some launching my web site.
Any help would be greatly appreciated. Please visit my site and tell me what you think. I’m open to any and all suggestions.
I own a company in Peru that sells natural products for pets, capsules made out of medicinal plants of the Peruvian Rainforest. At the present time, we have 3 products : Pet-O’Flam, Pet-Urol and Pet-Oncol. We are looking forward to enter in the US Pet Market with our line of products.
You can visit our website, any comments or suggestions will be appreciated.
As Health Editor for National Pet Press, I would like to remind everyone that natural does not always mean safe. Be sure that you do the research before you decide that some natural product is a good idea as an oral dose for your pet. And even topical products get licked and become oral doses.
Many essential oils are actually toxic to pets. Some cause convulsions. There are many other health related risks. Don’t forget that toxins can damage vital organs, especially the liver.
Remember that imported products have caused problems in the past. And of course there are many chemical treatments doing harm to pets, families, and the environment when you use flea remedies.
I am working on opening a retail dog & cat supply store. Does anyone know what average profit margin I should expect for the store? (with using a cost of goods sold of just the cost of the mechandise being sold)
To help you find dog services in your local area, try visiting Dog Service Network (www.DogServiceNetwork.com). Dog Service Network is a one stop resource for all dog enthusiasts. We provide an online directory of dog services such as: boarders, daycares, groomers, rescues, sitters, trainers, walkers, waste cleanup and more!
We also provide you with articles from expert professionals in the industry covering topics on how to choose a good dog trainer, to how to pick the right breed, to safety and more.
Please visit our site at http://www.DogServiceNetwork.com
I have developed and patented a line of eco-friendly doghouses that are all American made. I was hoping someone could give me some quidance by way of sales statistics and niche marketing
the link include here is a small write up that This Old House had featured on their online magazine.
feel free to contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a library patron seeking to view your annual pet overpopulation report, detailing how many pets owned, how much they spend on their pets, what they spend it on, and other demographics.
Thank you for you guidance.
How many I obtain the aforementioned pet report ddddd(market, demographic, etc.)? I am starting up a pet product design business.
Thank you very, very much,
I own a Professional Pet Care Company in Central Florida I started my company, Jan 07, just since last year, my clientele has tripled. I offer Pet Sitting, Small scale Daycare and Boarding in my home. People no longer want to put there pets in kennels or any place that crates them, they want them in a home and loving environment that their going to receive 24 hour attention and care. We also where voted in the Top 5 for Wesh Channel 2’s A-List so we must be doing something right.
Pet Sitters have an edge to what many consumers want for there pets, we are in their homes, we spend a lot of time with them, buying products for them and so on. Companies want to know what your consumers want for their pets ask a Pet Sitter.
A new trend that is revolution that is changing the dog boarding industry is DOG HOTELS and Chateau Poochie is an example of one dog boarding facility in florida that is setting new standards. Dogs should not stay in a caged environment if they are not caged at home and knowing a place like Chateau Poochie Dog Hotel exists allows for owners to be at peace of mind while they travel knowing that their dog is well taken care of and active during the day. It also eases a dog owners mind when they can watch their dog on the internet or their iphone which is another added feature provided by Chateau Poochie.
All around the industry and level of care is changing and it is about time! This dog hotel knows what consumers want for their pets and they are on the right track to building a new level of service and clientele….massages for dogs…dog spas…dog peticures and dog fitness…the list goes on. Definitely worth checking out if anyone is interested in how the market and standards are changing!
If anyone wanted to visit the dog hotel’s website mentioned above it is :
Very neat place to tour as well….
My business that has just launched is called Celebrative Art. We cater to pet cremation urns and jewelry. All of out items are hand made by artist all over the country. They are more than urns; they are one of a kind pieces of art. If anyone is looking for a special way to remember their beloved lost pet come browse our gallery. http://www.celebrativeart.com
I want to open a pet place just for large Breeds only… I have Two Newfies and all the places around here just don’t have the capeabilities to handle large breeds, ecspecially when it comes to grooming, just like you were saying, what dog wants to be couped up in a kennel while waiting to get groomed…. Just where do I start? please help!!!
I am looking to find a manufacturer of pet products in the USA that is capable of manufacturing my pet collars and pet bags. Please contact me to discuss!
I am french and creating my own products for pets. Sorry for the english, I will do my best. Basically, I have to develop a distributor network in France for my own products. My products are done to be conforatble for cats and dogs (my first product is a bed) and nice for the eyes of the owner. The design is very important. They are very modern. I will visit all the upmarket furniture shops in France to convince them to distribute my accessories. So as I have to go to every potential distributors for my products in France, I could also propose yours if you are interested. Please, contact me if your are interested and if your products belong to the same market and we will discuss the conditions. You can contact me even if you are a beginner, a small producer, in USA, Canada or anywhere else, I will answer to everybody. I precise that I have been working on my project for more than one year know. I have found a logistic company to work with. I will not buy your products, as I am a small company with all my fund engaged to produce my own products, but I will find new customers in France for you.
hello friends I write to find out if you are distgrbuidores of accesories for pets in the united states.
because I want to put a pet shop but I need information from factories or distrbuidores of products for pets if I can help them leave my mail for me to write.
thanks for your help.
I am an Independent Field Representative for healthy and holistic pet care products. I need new energetic representatives to get the word out about our wonderful products, and get paid at the same time! My two eighteen year old cats (yes, 18!!) have been eating the foods and taking the supplements for two years now, and our vet is amazed by how healthy they are! My company is the new trend of products for pets that are not produced by corporate conglomerates who are only interested in making money, not pet wellness. Please contact me if you are interested!!
Another trend is the twist on dog grooming shops – this takes it one notch up — Dog Salons. They’ve actually been a popular trend in certain countries in Asia, like Japan, for several years now. But I am starting to see them pop up in many cities in the US.
Is there a way to put this on a trial basis?
I am an insurance broker and am thinking about getting into Pet Insurance. This was a very informative article. Thank you!
I am a dog walker and I sell pet treats. I also come from a market analysis background and from Google and general stats, the USA completely blitzes everyone else out there.
What I am noticing is that while people will spend a lot of money on dog pellets and dog washes etc, they dont understand the fundamental importance of daily dog walks and socialization. The reason is that people are lazy or time poor, but the dog suffers. Amazing how these trends are all about buying toys and experiences for dogs or dogs appearance, but all a dog really wants to do is be with other dogs, off lead.