Note: please be sure to see our updated report on the pet services industry in America. Below is the 2014 version, but our newer report is current to 2022.
The pet industry is an enormous and rapidly-growing market. In the past ten years, the industry has experienced unprecedented growth from $23 billion to over $50 billion – that’s more than Americans spend on movies, music and video games combined. In 2010, Americans spent $48.35 billion on their pets, with a projection of $50.84 billion in pet expenditures in 2011.1 This annual spending is expected to hit $52 billion in the next two years, according to consumer research company Packaged Facts, as cited by Forbes Magazine.
That is an absolutely staggering degree of growth given our nation’s overall climate of econonic setbacks. The Forbes article continues to bring this point home: “an astounding 92% of pet owners spent the same or more on their pets during the most recent recession period. Many pet owners are even forgoing luxuries in their own lives in order to make sure their pets are living in the lap of luxury.”2 Financial experts now widely tout the pet industry as “apparently immune to recession.”3 Even from 2008 to 2010, years that saw nearly every sector of America’s retail economy crumble, pet spending was up by 11.9%.4
Indeed, the pet industry is the seventh largest retail industry in the U.S., exceeding the jewelry, candy, toy and hardware industries. Moreover, after consumer electronics, “pet care is the fastest growing category in retailing, expanding about 6% a year. Clearly, consumer demand in the pet industry is at an all-time high.”5
Specifically in terms of the pet services arena, dog training and pet care expenditures have increased from $5.2 billion to $6.9 billion within the past three years with major growth now predicted for the next five years.6 According to BusinessWeek, “Pet services is one of the fastest-growing [sectors] in the pet industry, jumping 8 to 12% per year.”7
The 2011-2012 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey further reveals that spending on treats, toys and accessories for dogs was up 30% in 2010, from $56 million to $73 million, and 10% of dog owners reported having hosted parties for their dogs. “The pet industry continues to see unprecedented growth,” said APPA President Bob Vetere. “The survey reveals pet owners are willing to spend money on their pets despite a downturn in the economy.”8
For one thing, our pets now have us outnumbered. There are over 380 million pets in the U.S., compared to a scant 300 million of us mere humans. This represents 63% of all U.S. households, and 40% own more than one pet. In terms of dogs, there are over 78 million dogs living as treasured pets in the United States.9 These numbers continue to grow, in spite of economic hard times and setbacks in many other sectors. We love our dogs, and statistics have clearly demonstrated that pet owners would rather go without their own luxuries than skimp on their dog’s daily perks.
However, the most overwhelming trend, which will continue indefinitely, is the population’s emphasis on pets as members of the family.
The market for expanded pet services is increasing as the owner-pet dynamic continues to deepen. PetSmart, the leading wholesaler of pet products, characterizes a large number of pet owners as pet enthusiasts – people who are passionately committed to their pets and regard their pet as a family member. These pet owners have a strong emotional bond to their pets and are the largest consumers of pet services. The strong emotional commitment of these owners is acutely revealed in surveys by the American Animal Hospital Association:
Survey of Pet Owners10,11
Pet owners reported that they:
- Give their pet a Christmas or Hanukkah present (100%)
- Consider their pet to have human-like personality traits (94%)
- Would be likely to risk their own life for their pet (93%)
- Provide daily exercise for their pet (80%)
- Include their pet in holiday celebrations (86%)
- Take their pet with them on vacations (67%)
- Sing or dance for a pet (65%)
- Celebrate a pet’s birthday (63%)
- Take time off from work to care for a sick pet (53%)
- Spend more on their pet now than three years ago (53%)
- Prepare special meals for a pet (52%)
- Bring home vacation souvenirs for a pet (44%)
- Take their pet to work (44%)
- Display a pet’s photograph at work (43%)
- Would select a dog over a human as their sole companion on a desert island (40%)
This commitment and attachment is especially strong for dog owners. Over 16 million dog owners report that they are more attached to their dogs than to their best friend, and 5.4 million are as attached to their dog as to their spouse.12 Many pet owners view their dogs as children wearing fur clothes, and are increasingly interested in the emotional stability and happiness of their pets.
Since many American pet owners consider their dogs to be members of the family, they are now lavishing unprecedented spending on their pets. Researchers have identified an emerging consumer trend of “pet parents,” people who think of and treat their pets like children, and pet behavior specialists have noticed many similarities between the two.
Pets are now most popular “with empty-nesters, single professionals, and couples who delay having children. What unites these disparate demographic groups is a tendency to have time and resources to spare.”13 In fact, the “fastest-growing groups of pet buyers, according to Consumer Products & Services Trend Report, are empty nesters and young professionals who postpone starting families but want a substitute.”14
Another recent survey found that “nearly 90% of women consider pets members of their family.” (This same report also studied spending patterns among women – a critical demographic for us, since over half of American women 18-49 own at least one dog – finding that “eighty-nine percent of women indicate they will spend the same amount or more on their pets in the next 12 months, while 24 percent plan on spending more money.”15)
The sophisticated, family-friendly, fun atmosphere of the Zoom Room caters directly to this trend, and provides owners with the best possible play and learning experiences with their dogs. And a Zoom Room franchise taps into yet another critical trend in our current economy.
For the last few years, Entrepreneur Magazine has been consistently ranking pet franchises on its annual franchise hotlists. Entrepreneur’s forecast for 2009 singled out a mere eight franchising categories holding special promise, among them pet service franchises. Here’s what they have to say: “In tough times, pet owners tend to scrimp on pet toys and products, but they still shell out the dough to ensure that their pets stay healthy and happy. While growth in the pet retail sector seems to have come to a standstill, franchises offering pet services like training, day care and grooming are at the head of the pack.”16
1 “Industry Statistics & Trends.” 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey, American Pet Products Association. 2011.
2 Mann, Paul. “How the Rich Pamper Their Pets.” Forbes Magazine. Jan. 15, 2008.
3 Morais, Richard C. “Dog Days.” Forbes Magazine. June 21, 2004.
4 Warren, Ellen. “Despite recession, we still indulge our pets.” Chicago Tribune. Apr. 29, 2010.
5 Mann, op. cit.
6 American Pet Products Association, op. cit.
7 “Pet Economy: Pet Owners Spend to Spoil Their Pets.” BusinessWeek TV. Dec. 21, 2007.
8 American Pet Products Association, op. cit.
9 American Pet Products Association, op. cit.
10 “2004 Pet Owner Survey.” American Animal Hospital Association. 2004.
11 Scott, Ph.D., J.D., Gini G. “The Pet Industry Today.” 2001.
12 “Pet Statistics.” American Pet Association. 2006.
13 Brady, Diane, and Christopher Palmeri. “The Pet Economy” (cover story). BusinessWeek. Aug. 6, 2007.
14 Morais, op. cit.
15 “New Lifetime Networks ‘FemiNation’ Survey Finds 89 Percent of Women 18-49 will Spend as Much or More on Pets Next Year Despite Economic Downturn.” Entrepreneur Magazine. Dec. 8, 2008.
16 Wilson, Sara. “Franchising Hot Spots: Which franchise categories hold the most promise for 2009?”Entrepreneur Magazine. January 2009.
Canines vs. Caffeine
The American Kennel Club has released an article that directly addresses the topic of how well a dog service business can not just weather the current economic storm in America, but downright ride the waves with brilliant success. We’ve reprinted the article here for your edification and enthusiastic enjoyment:
AKC Survey Finds Dog Owners Willing to Kick Caffeine Addiction for Canine Affection — Current Economic Woes No Competition For Americans’ Dedication to Their Dogs1
A survey conducted this month by the American Kennel Club shows that despite a tough economy, pet owners are willing to sacrifice many daily luxuries to provide for the needs of their canine companions.
The survey of over 1,000 people on www.akc.org found that more than 96% of respondents with a taste for gourmet coffee would give up their latte habit to save money for their dog’s expenses. Ninety-seven percent also said they would forego massages or spa treatments in order to afford a vet bill, and nearly 79% would cancel a teeth whitening appointment so that Fido could have his annual teeth cleaning.
One respondent would give up “pretty much anything. I need the gym and I need the Internet, everything else is fair game.”
“In general people are more dedicated to their dogs than ever before. No doubt dogs bring comfort and stress relief to many people during this difficult time,” said AKC spokesperson, Lisa Peterson. “This is reminiscent of what we saw during hurricane Katrina. With people facing great hardship, many remained so loyal to their pets that they were willing to risk their lives. Our survey demonstrates that they are also willing to forgo some of life’s luxuries for the welfare of their pets.”
The survey also found that with the holidays coming up, most dogs can still be assured that they will find a bone under the tree. More than 69% of respondents would cut back on gifts for their friends or extended family before they would skimp on holiday gifts for their dog. Nearly 9% would even scale back on gifts for their spouse before cutting back on presents for their dog.
Healthcare is another area that dedicated pet owners seem to be consistent about. PetPartners, Inc., provider of the AKC Pet Healthcare Plan, says that sales rates are holding up and owners are renewing their policies in consistently high numbers. This shows that pet owners view pet insurance as a way to manage their pet’s health care costs.Some dog owners have even opted to purchase health plans for their dogs over themselves. One survey respondent admitted, “My Cavaliers have health insurance, however, I do not.”
- 81% of respondents purchase gifts for their pups during the holidays
- 69% spend up to $50; 24% spend $50-100; only 3% spend more than $150
- 59% expect to spend the same amount on gifts for their dog as they did last year
Giving up Like for Like
- 67% would cancel their travel plans if they could not afford to pay to board their dog.
- 65% would regularly eat Ramen noodles before they would skimp on their dogs high quality food.
- 59% would perm or color their own hair in the kitchen sink in order to keep Fido’s appointments at the groomers.
Cutbacks Owners Are Willing to Make For Their Dog
- Eat more meals at home (97%)
- Cancel gym membership (72%)
- Cancel cable or satellite service (50%)
- Curb spending on new clothes (94%)
- Push back plans for home remodeling (89%)
- Forgo buying new car or buy a less expensive model (88%)
Money Saving Techniques
- 52% look for sales and/or clipping coupons before shopping for pet products
- 48% are purchasing fewer toys/treats and other non-essential dog supplies
- 34% have begun buying dog food in bulk
© 2008 American Kennel Club
1 “Current Economic Woes No Competition For Americans’ Dedication to Their Dogs.” American Kennel Club. Dec. 8, 2008.