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Marlene Kennedy: Pet care industry paying close attention to Millenials

Marlene Kennedy: Pet care industry paying close attention to Millenials

Daughter No. 2, the quintessential Millennial, likes to text photos when Mac, her French bulldog, gets a new outfit.
 
I’ve received pictures of him in a raincoat, a sweater dotted with sheep and, last week, a winter hat with a puff ball on top. (I won’t be surprised if he walks in some semblance of a tuxedo as “Dog of Honor” in her fall nuptials.)
 
Both daughter and dog are in the crosshairs of the pet industry, she for her spending potential and Mac for his cuteness – that is, as the object of her spending.
 
The American Pet Products Association doesn’t specifically break out canine couture in its annual calculation of what Americans spend on their pets, but the overall outlay is staggering: an estimated $75.4 billion in 2019.
 
Prime expenditure categories include food and veterinarian care, as would be expected, with “other services” — grooming, boarding, training, pet sitting — a distant but significant third. (Yes, daughter shells out for a pet-walker on days too full of work or school.)
 
The association’s latest national survey reports that 67 percent of U.S. households own a pet, up from 56 percent in 1988, the first survey year. Our preference for pets ranges from cats and dogs to birds, fish, reptiles and other small animals.
 
But Millennials are “the object of special attention” right now, says Packaged Facts, a consumer goods market research firm.
 
While they haven’t yet reached their peak earning potential, Millennials are “significant spenders” on pet products and services, according to the firm. In part, that’s because they tend to have younger, recently acquired pets, which gives Millennials “an immediate need for and a higher propensity to purchase” products and services.
 
At 27 percent of all pet owners, Millennials also are an important consumer group for pets other than dogs and cats, says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, since they “make up one in three owners of ... fish, birds, rabbits, gerbils and hamsters.”
 
The firm last fall published the third edition of its “Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the U.S.,” a comprehensive look at owners and what they buy for their pets.
 
In an email last week, though, Sprinkle noted the study also identified Baby Boomers as a demographic opportunity “hiding in plain sight” for the pet industry.
 
Over the past decade, Boomers, aged 55 to 74 years, were the only group to see an increase in the rate of pet ownership, growing from 50 percent to 54 percent, according to Packaged Facts. 
 
Meantime, the vaunted Millennials (ages 18 to 39) saw their ownership rate decline to 61 percent from 63 percent during the period. Gen Xers (ages 40 to 54) remained static at 64 percent.
 
Sprinkle attributed the results to “the outsize significance of the Boomer cohort” and a growing tendency in the U.S. to age with pets.
 
Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at [email protected]

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