The Pet Industry May Not be Recession-Proof After All!

The Pet Industry May Not be

Recession-Proof After All!

Making the Move from Luxury to Multi-Functional Products

by Xiomara Iraheta

It’s no surprise that amidst these tough financial times consumers are rethinking their shopping patterns, especially when it comes to their dogs. Recent pet manufacturing trends show that consumers are honing in on the move from “glitzy to green,” that is, they are no longer shopping for luxurious or flashy pet items but instead high-quality, healthy products that solve a problem.

The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc. (APPA) reports that the average dog owner spent just under $500 on their dog for food, grooming products and toys in 2006. But we may see that average drop as consumers learn to manage their dog expenses valuing quality and function over Paris Hilton style “bling”.

Bo Nelson, owner of, has been selling to upscale branded pet products pet stores for 15 years. “Over the past several months we have noticed more conservative buying patterns. Pet Boutiques are still purchasing clothing, jewelry and frivolous items but in smaller quantities,” Nelson said.

“We have seen less of a drop-off in the sales of treats, toys, collars, beds, bowls and spa products. Overall it seems that sales for items people and their pets use on a regular basis are faring better than items people and pets only use on special occasions.”

Sheri Scarborough a pet industry veteran and owner of concurs. “Buying decisions are more focused on price point than ever before.” She adds, Retailers are adding more holistic, organic, and raw food lines as well as products made in the USA and made from recycled material.”

For years as the pet industry was growing in double digits, business owners claimed that the pet industry was recession proof. According to recent articles in Pet Product News this may not exactly be true. Very expensive high end items sit on the shelves longer while quality well-priced items continue to sell well.

Stretching your dollar and keeping Fido safe and happy doesn’t have to be a contradiction. Weighing in on the situation, Lorna Paxton, owner of happytails Canine Spa Line says, “in order for products to sell they have to solve a problem, they have to actually do what they claim to do, and it helps if they perform more than one function."

You don’t want to lower your standards as far as quality products go and risk safety or comfort for your dog. Therefore, consider the following tips when shopping for products under these three categories.

Grooming and Bathing:

  • Problem/solution based products: If your dog has itchy skin, find an oatmeal shampoo
  • Multi-functional: Combined shampoos & conditioners and other products that can perform more than one function
  • Holistic: Products that focus on the overall health of the dog, not just the outside appearance
  • All natural
  • Made in the USA

Food :

  • Grain Free Food: Not only will your dog be nourished but the food could help with itchy skin
  • Read the labels! Experts say to protein should be at about 30 percent and fat to be at least 18 percent.
  • Read the Whole Dog Journal which often publishes reviews of every food on the market.
  • Seek deals: Register your e-mail address on your manufacturers’ website and you may get coupons sent to you via e-mail or a heads up on specials

Treats :

  • Functional treats: Like a treat that has supplements for joint support, vitality or other health concerns
  • All natural and made in the USA
  • Treats that are not fattening (if your dog has weight issue)
  • A treat that takes some time to eat. Maybe it’s hidden in a toy and takes a while to get to. This is entertaining and stimulating for the dog
  • One that your dog loves. You can use them as bribes and training tools!


  • Ones that you can hide food in
  • That engage your pet’s interest whether it be a bouncing ball or squeeky toy
  • Toys with longevity: If you purchase toys that are made from good materials you can get even more use of it by rotating them weekly. Making one or two available to your dog for one week and switching it with a different one the next can seem like their getting new toys all the time.

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  1. I realize that at the time I was setting up my website, the market was still good for luxury pet products. However, luxury items seem to be on the back burner these days and therefore business has not taken off. I sell dog clothes, collars, harnesses and beds.


  2. The pet industry is definitely feeling the heat right now, I was also going to gear my site towards the lusxury market, however i changed my strategy to focus on Cool Dog Accessories for Under $10 Dollars. This site is for those pet owners who are on a budget but don’t want to sacrifice their doggie’s fashion.


  3. We haven’t felt the pinch as of yet, but then again we are always cautious and conscious of our customers and their shopping habits. We buy LAST years style at a fraction of the cost and pass the savings on to the consumer. That frees up soem money for the higher priced items. Whether it’s a strong market or a deep recession like this one you as the buy have got to be smart. Keep your eyes open and buy as if you were the customer.


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