Pet product shoppers: demographics by retail channel

PetSmart and Petco hold significant momentum among Hispanic, Millennial and upper income pet food shoppers.

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Five-year trend data on the retail channel choices of pet product shoppers in the US help illuminate the degree to which pet superstores have had significant market momentum. Between 2010 and 2015, in the case of dog-owning households, the combined shopper base for PetSmart and Petco grew by 1.9 million upper-income households (earning US$100,000 or more annually), 1.5 million millennial generation (age 18–34) households, and nearly 1.3 million Hispanic households.

Although “online” shopping can be tricky to define for industry analysts as well as consumers, websites follow as beneficiaries to channel choice trends over this period. Even as conservatively measured by Simmons' national consumer surveys, the pet product buyer base for "brick-and-click" or Internet-only websites increased by 1.4 million upper-income dog owners, 600,009 upper-income cat owners, and more than 300,000 millennial dog owners, millennial cat owners and Hispanic dog owners.


In terms of who shops for dog food where, veterinarians have lost ground with their Millennial customers. They’ve also seen losses with the upper-income shopper base, as have drugstores and convenience stores. PetSmart and Petco continue to dominate and see gains among their shopper demographic bases, including Hispanic customers, Millennials and upper income families.

While supermarkets slipped between 2010 and 2015 in draw among dog or cat owners overall, from 44% to 41%, specific demographics helped supermarkets avoid the sharper decline in pet shopper draw posted by discount stores. Demographic bright spots for supermarkets include adding, as pet product shoppers, 800,002 Hispanic households that own dogs and 572,000 upper-income households that own cats. 

Over this period, in terms of retail channels losing ground, dog and cat owners show distinct patterns. For example, drug/convenience stores dropped by 600,000 upper-income dog owners in their pet product shopper base, while veterinarians dropped by over 600,000 Hispanic cat owners and also lost ground among millennial and upper-income dog owners. Given the premium on health and wellness in today’s pet market, this trend seems paradoxical.


The data for cat food shoppers shows similar patterns of gains and loss. Among Hispanic, Millennial and upper-income shoppers buying cat food, PetSmart and Petco continue to gain as with their dog food purchasers. Also similar to dog food purchasers, veterinarians have seen losses among its upper-income base. Discount stores have lost some of their Millennial shoppers, while pet stores overall other than PetSmart and Petco have seen drops among their upper-income shoppers.

Along with this anomaly is a larger pattern whereby relative strength or weakness in one pet owner cohort doesn’t necessarily carry over into another. For example, by shifts in customer base between 2010 and 2015, PetSmart has posted greater gains among upper-income cat owners, and Petco has done the same among upper-income dog owners. And while PetSmart has posted greater gains among Hispanic dog owners, Petco has posted greater gains among Millennial dog owners. So, there is something for everybody in today’s retail channel options, but no one site fits all.


Further pet food market information

For more Market Reports by David Sprinkle:

For information on Packaged Facts’ report on Millennials as Pet Owners (February 2016):

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