COVID-19 impacts on the U.S. pet industry were not what seemed inevitable during the initial months of the pandemic. Instead, 2020 turned out to be a banner year for the market, with sales growth of 9% pushing overall pet industry sales to $107 billion, as reported by Packaged Facts' just released U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2021-2022.
Along with the re-confirmed recession resistance of the pet industry, several factors support an extremely positive near- and long-term outlook for the pet market. A surge in pet acquisition and adoption continued through Christmas/Winter Holidays 2020. New pet acquisition—especially strong among those who already had pets and those with children in the home—brought the number of pet dogs to 96 million (up over 10 million from 2019) and the number of pet cats to 32 million (up over 2 million).
In contrast to pet population patterns in the wake of the Great Recession of 2007-2009, which triggered a "Decade of the Dog" for the industry, pet adoption and acquisition not only spanned pet types but disproportionately included pets other than dogs and cats, especially reptiles or small mammals such as rabbits, hamsters, and gerbils. As indicated in the Packaged Facts report, more households now are "multiple-pet" in having more than one of a single type of pet, and in having more than one type of pet. It's a dog-and-cat world.
Once pets are homed, most pet care spending is non-discretionary, such that pet food and non-food supply sales, as well as veterinary sector revenues, gained strength despite COVID-19 challenges and dislocations. Moreover, as noted by Packaged Facts research director David Sprinkle, "not just pets but pet stores and pet care businesses are now culturally and politically inscribed as essential."
At the same time, brick-and-mortar-based retailers are more Internet-focused than ever, tapping in to the continued acceleration of online shopping and featuring expanded brick-and-click options including curbside pickup and same-day delivery. From an omnimarket vantage, digital pet care opportunities extend beyond e-commerce to emerging areas such as veterinary telemedicine and teletriage, in sync with rapid gains in pet medications sales online through websites such as Chewy Pharmacy and WalmartPetRx.com
While the pet industry has long been an investor favorite, the blockbuster performance of the U.S. pet industry despite COVID-19 has spurred a new flurry of M&A and investment activity. Major developments include Petco's initial public offering, BarkBox's $1.6 billion valuation as a public company, and the acquisition of market retailers or brands including Pet Supplies Plus, Natural Balance, WellPet, Breeder's Choice, and Solid Gold. As with puppy dog eyes, investors are finding the pet market very hard to say no to.
For more information see the U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2021-2022 study page. The study, with 108 figures and 60 tables, analyzes current and projects future retail sales and trends across the U.S. pet industry, considering in the known and longer-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. The report examines collectively and separately four sectors of pet products and services:
Particular attention is dedicated to the market impact of e-commerce and technology-driven and other emerging products and services.
By Lindsay Beaton
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By Lindsay Beaton