State of the Pet Industry: Two Insiders Weigh In

Sheri Scarborough, co-owner of, a shopping site for pet retailers, and ex-pet store owner  writes:

“I am finding that the economy is greatly impacting the buying decisions of dog and cat owners, which in turn, effects the buying decisions of retailers.  I am based in Florida, and this is particularly evident,  because the foreclosure rate is very high.    In the past 6 months, I’ve seen retailers  bring in merchandise with much lower price points.    Most of the boutiques that I visit  have only carried high-end “bling”, leather, and beautiful ribbon collars in the past.   Many have now added a nice nylon collar line that retails for $7 – $12.      For the past three years, apparel (tanks, dresses, etc.)  has placed a strong third place in overall selling categories.   Sales have significantly dropped in this category and treats have now taken over this spot.

 Retailers are adding more holistic, organic, and raw food lines.  Some are carrying as many as 20 different lines, although the margin on food is usually around 30%.   Their general retail areas have become more mainstreamed to the basic needs of the pet to include collars/leads, toys, treats, grooming and beds.     Buying decisions are more focused on price point than ever before.

 Other retailers are setting up areas in their store that focus on matters/items important to them and their customer base.  These can include products  that are:  made in the USA, made from organic material, made with natural ingredients. made from recycled material, made locally (in their particular geographic area) and items that reflect a particular lifestyle – i.e.  Pride Wear.  Because these items may be of particular importance to their Customer, they don’t seem to mind paying a higher price point.

This holiday buying season has been very slow in Florida.  Retailers heavily stocked up on holdiay-themed merchandise in the past, but this year have either purchased a very small quantity of this type of merchandise, or decided to stick to non-holiday-themed merchandise altogether, for fear that they will still have this merchandise after  the holiday season.   They are being very selective about their purchases, and are having the purchases shipped much later this year than in the past.    Quite simply, they don’t know what to expect this holiday season.

Outside of Florida, we are finding that Retailers have continued to place  nice orders, but are being more cautious about the amount they are spending than in the past.   Coat and sweater sales are soft as compared to prior years, as some Retailers have plenty of stock from last year.  They are waiting to see what the demand is before committing additional inventory dollars to this category.   

 Overall, most of our Retailers tell us  that October has started off nicely and they are hopeful for a strong holiday season.    We are hopeful, as well!”

Bo Nelson, owner of (, an on-line service representing over 200 manufacturers and supplying over 3,000 write:

“In my 15 years in the pet industry, I can recall many occasions during economic downturns when people would say to me: “the pet industry is recession proof and people will always buy things for their pets.” I think there some truth to this, but the US economy seems to be facing its most difficult period since the Great Depression and this slow-down is affecting most sectors including wholesale purchases and consumer spending.

 Stock market pundits and the main-stream media are likely amplifying consumer anxiety. People still have money in their pockets, and I believe the pleasure people get from buying items for their pets far outweighs the monetary costs. However the current state of the US economy is affecting consumer spending in the pet sector and thus it is affecting wholesale purchasing as well. specializes is selling upscale branded pet products to independent boutique pet stores. Over the past several months we have noticed more conservative buying patterns from the retailer we service. Pet Boutiques are still purchasing clothing, jewelry and frivolous items but they are buying these items in smaller quantities. We have seen less of a drop-off in the sales of treats, toys, collars, beds, bowls and spa products. Overall it seem that sales for items people and their pets use everyday or on a regular basis are fairing better then items people and pets only use on special occasions.

 I do not predict an overly robust Holiday selling season for most pet product retailers, but I believe most will survive. Inevitably the economy will recover and the wholesalers and retailers who are able to endure this tough time will emerge stronger and better equipped to meet the need of pets and pet owners in the future.”


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