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3 Key Trends Pet Retailers Need to Know

September 24, 2019

As a pet retailer, you’re well aware of the big love pet parents have for their furry friends. You also know that translates into greater numbers of animal companions, accompanied by the pet parents who desire to create the best possible lives for them.

Today, 85 million U.S. households have at least one pet, and in the past 30 years, pet ownership has grown from 56% of households to 67%, according to the American Pet Products Association. Also, pet spending now exceeds $72 billion a year, versus $40 billion a decade ago. While these stats hold promising growth for someone like you, more and more consumers are taking advantage of convenient online options to stock up on pet supplies. Online pet food sales amount to 45% of industry growth, according to Nielsen.

To succeed in this challenging retail environment, you need to consider the needs and wants of today’s pet parent. At the same time, you’ll want to create a shopping experience that stands apart from big-box and online sellers.

Sound like a tall order? These three trends can serve as a guide to help you identify new opportunities to bolster your retail presence.

Pet parents want to know what’s in the food

As you know, pet parents see their furry friends as bona fide family members. Which is why they’re motivated to go the extra mile to give them the best possible chance of a long, healthy life. This shows up in their buying behaviors. According to a Nielsen study, pet parents say they’re more attentive to what’s in those bags and cans of food, shying away from GMOs, corn and other byproducts. Instead, they’re opting for foods listing meat as the first ingredient. As a result, between 2015-2017, the dollar share of dog foods with meat as the first ingredient grew by 7.4 points.

How do you grow? Rather than stock your shelves with mainline, mass-distributed brands pet parents can get at any big box store, put your focus on family-owned brands that make pet parents feel like they’re trading up. Pet parents are seeking:

  • Whole food ingredients list that makes sense
  • Transparency on where each ingredient comes from and responsible sourcing of ingredients.
  • “Made in the USA” should be printed on the bag
  • Hearing stories about these companies, and how they built their reputation on providing high-quality nutrition, excellent value
  • Responsible sourcing of ingredients.
  • Humanely sourced proteins that are free-range, with no antibiotics or hormones used.

Joining forces with these family-owned brands, whether up-and-coming or well established, can drive your opportunity for growth.

Pet tech is growing

There’s no shortage of pet gadgets on the market that offer everything from convenience to granular data on a pet’s daily activities.

Smart pet doors are designed to keep out curious cats. Smart crates with soft music and motion-activated fans keep pets soothed and comfortable. Pet feeders deliver perfectly portioned feedings on schedule, along with at-a-glance data on the pet’s eating habits. And of course, there are plenty of pet activity trackers and GPS collars to help us track the activity levels and whereabouts of our furry friends. For ideas, check out this roundup of cool pet gadgets.

In 2018, pet tech was a $565 million industry that’s expected to reach $1 billion by 2023.

What does this mean for you? As a bricks-and-mortar retailer, you have a unique advantage to sell pet gadgets. Some 62% of shoppers say they prefer bricks-and-mortar shopping over online because it lets them see, touch and test the products before they buy. Take full advantage, let staffers demonstrate these products and allow customers to get hands-on.

Customers are seeking retail experiences

In the retail space, brands are recognizing that a store needs to go beyond the usual browse-and-pay model and deliver that something extra: experiences. Large retail brands are taking the shopper’s in-store experience into account to entice people and make it worth the trip.

For example, some brands are emulating the conveniences of online shopping, letting customers place digital orders from an app or website so that they can pick up the order at the store at a later time. Some offer incentives that appeal to the pocketbook, like loyalty programs and subscriptions. Others position themselves as pet specialists and connect with customers with programming, events and extra services.

With that in mind, the experience-focused approach opens some great opportunities for pet retailers. Here are a few ideas you may incorporate into your shop that are also on-trend with pet parents.

  • Self-serve dog washing stations
  • Monthly subscription services for food or essentials
  • High-end pet grooming services, including pet massage, pet-safe non-toxic hair coloring and essential oil treatments
  • Pet obedience training and behavior support
  • Pet portraits
  • Pet sitting services
  • Health and wellness services, such as an onsite pet pharmacy and anesthesia-free dental cleanings.
  • Rotating displays that focus on different brands or sales.
  • Offer free treats at the counter

To truly differentiate from the big-name competitors, create a community of pet-loving individuals. Here are a few great ideas:

  • Seminars on pet nutrition, featuring industry representatives and local experts, such as veterinarians.
  • Adoption events
  • Breed-specific meetups
  • Treat bars, with plenty of free samples for pups to taste-test
  • Yappie hour mixers, complete with treats and fun for pet parents and dogs.
  • Take photos of pets and add them to your wall, creating a fun, welcoming vibe.

More people than ever have discovered the joy of living with animals, and these pet parents want to provide them with the best possible lives! The pet sector is taking off in a big way, so don’t rest on your laurels. This is your time to grow your brand and establish yourself in your community!

Make marketing more manageable and access our social posts, delivered right to your mailbox. Just visit to set up your free access to ready-to-publish pet content. Then, share it with your customers so you can do even more to help pet families live happy, healthy lives.