By Nadya Liebich and Ryan Benson
According to Wired magazine, more than 60% of Americans have a pet and 90% of dog and cat owners think of them as members of the family. With younger people, specifically Millennials, now the largest pet-owning group, it’s safe to say that pet ownership, and pet retail, are here to stay. Like the other industries that Millennials have disrupted, pet stores are changing with the times, increasingly looking like high-end, personalized boutiques. But what’s next for this formerly niche industry?
Wellness for all
Just like the surge in wellness products and fads for people, we’re really seeing a focus on wellness and wellbeing for pets as well. For people, it started with kale smoothies and spinning. For pets, it’s care from a ‘parent’ on the same level as for their children, with exclusive diets, the latest grooming techniques, and catering to their emotional wellbeing. They are truly part of the family.
Petco launched a new brand of pet stores, PetCoach, especially for pet parents and their furbabies—it’s a one-stop-shop for products, vet appointments, and other services. What once was “obedience training” is now about “socializing.” What used to be standard “grooming” is now about a spa experience. Even though PetCoach is the first of its kind, we anticipate seeing this trend expand significantly.
A lot of retailers, whether their customers are human or canine, are focusing on customization and personalization. It’s one of the top ways to engage a customer base and encourage in-person shopping over online ordering.
PetCoach is a highly personal retail experience that offers an online profile for each pet parent and pet, allowing staff to easily make curated suggestions. Pet parents can even schedule a check-up, shots, a haircut, and daycare until they’re ready to pick up, all via app.
Other services designed to make life easier for pet parents are popping up as well and they’re a big step up from a traditional dogwalker. Pet Taxis can drive pets to appointments or daycare, then back home at a designated time. Mobile pet groomers that make house calls are just one more type of company getting in on the game for convenient pet parenthood.
The bigger picture
The more we look into pet retail trends, the more we see them following the same path as traditional retail—a path that has taken major strides in the directions of convenience, personalization, and showrooming.
Even other sectors, like hospitality and residential, are catering to pets and their parents. It seems like every new apartment building advertises a dog daycare, pet sitting services, animal spa, or a dog run on the roof. The days of just leaving your pet home alone while you go to work are long gone.
At PetCoach, the design for a smaller footprint makes the space feel more personal and intimate, but it also creates other challenges (where can we store the industrial-sized bags of cat litter?). The solution is to make the storefront more of a product showroom, with more inventory in the back that can be shipped to customers, even the same day in some cases. This works especially well for heavy pet supplies and even helps make up for some of the market share loss to online ordering.
The bottom line is that as the lines continue to blur between pets and human children, pet retail is going to become less of a niche and more of a mainstream retail market sector.
Nadya Liebich is a senior associate VP and Ryan Benson is an associate in CallisonRTKL‘s Seattle office.