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Friday, July 20, 2012

Cheek to Jowl with Pets


U.S. retail sales of pet supplies totaled $11.1 billion in 2011, up 2.0% over 2010.  From a high of 5% in 2007, annual sales gains slowed year to year during the economic recession of 2008-2009 and its aftermath.
Nonetheless, a number of market factors point to a return to healthier growth.  These include 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 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 ever-important superpremium end of the spending spectru
Many of the trendsetting items entering the pet supplies product stream are markedly parallel with human goods, appealing to pet owner as much as pet.  With more Americans treating their pets like members of the family, there’s no question that consumers are receptive to pet products that are “human-style,” whether by virtue of their brand names, benefits claims, or packaging presentations. 

In this vein, pet owners show a high degree of interest in human cross-over brands, which can bring instant confidence and familiarity into pet categories in which there is relatively little pet brand equity, including pet beds (Simmons Beautyrest, Orvis), cleaning products (Arm & Hammer, Bionaire, Febreze), grooming products (Conair, Wahl), supplements (GNC, Standard Process, Bach), travel/containment products (Jeep, Coleman), and apparel (Burberry, L.L. Bean).  A concomitant trend is the increased market involvement of makers of human products, a trend Packaged Facts expects to continue to gain momentum in the years ahead—with brands including Bissell, Conair, Febreze (Procter & Gamble), and Wahl making strong showings at the 2012 Global Pet Expo.
The humanization trend is always apparent in the new products featured at the Global Pet Expo. But particularly evident this year were human-style items that looked exactly like products for toddlers, from car seats and strollers, to safety gates and “cribs,” to rubber and plastic toys, with examples including Pet Gear strollers, Carlson pet containment devices, and Simply Fido pet toys.  Such products give pet owners plenty of human-style design options in the products they choose to integrate into their lifestyles and home d├ęcor—or rather, these human-style options make sense because pets are so thoroughly integrated into our lives and our homes.


And what are lifestyles without some celebrity cachet?  The pet market continues to register increased celebrity involvement, with names such as Martha Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres now cheek-to-jowl with brands such as Purina or Petmate.   Will it be long before Olympic champions vie to get their face on a box of Milk-Bone Trail Mix?


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