As an uncertain economy looms large, one thing is certain: Pet care is

good business.

With the onset of COVID-19, the past few months have been some of the mosteconomically challenging in recent memory. The retail sector, in particular,has been one of the hardest hit, with many businesses shuttered indefinitelyand some not knowing if they will ever recover.

Despite the economic downturn, certain sub-sectors of the retail industry havesurvived — and even thrived — thanks to stay-at-home orders. One of these isthe pet care industry.

1. Pets are recession-proof.

The pet industry is large, forecasted to reach $281 billion by 2023, accordingto market research firm Edge by Ascential. Moreover, it has followed a steadytrajectory of growth over the past 30 years. With pets increasingly viewed asmembers of the family (even often taking the place of children as millennialswait longer to get married and have kids), spending on pet-care hasconsistently grown. For example, annual household spending on pet food amongpet owners rose 36 percent between 2007 and 2017, according to Nielsen.

In addition, the pet industry has long been recognized as a recession-resistant category. In the past two recessionary dips of 2001 and 2008, petspending actually grew unabated each year by 7 percent and 5 percentrespectively. But it’s important to recognize that the current recession is adifferent animal (pun intended) due to the stay-at-home orders institutedacross the country.

For the first time, half of the people employed pre-COVID-19 have been workingfrom home, trading long commutes for quarantined conference calls, clearingsocial calendars, and yearning for emotional connection, which for many, hasbeen filled by their pets.

2. Pets offer comfort.

As pet owners know, there’s no better source of an emotional connection thancohabitating with a dog or cat. Not only do pets provide companionship,comfort, and support, they also fulfill our human need for physical touch.According to scientific research, interacting with a dog or cat lowers yourblood pressure and cortisol levels, while stimulating oxytocin, serotonin, anddopamine, chemicals that help our bodies relax.

Stay-at-home orders created a perfect environment for pet ownership. Longhours spent in the office that once discouraged potential parents fromadopting were replaced by the possibility of being present while workingremotely. Consequently, animal adoption rates skyrocketed more than 110percent and fostering grew 197 percemt comparatively year-over-year, accordingto Pethealth Inc.. Many New York City shelters and rescue organizations sawapplication rates increase by 1,000 percent. For existing pet parents, thestay-at-home rules offered a chance to spend more meaningful time and investmore deeply in their pets.

3. Pets need care.

As the popularity of pet ownership has increased so has demand for pet careproducts, such as extra toys, treats, health care, and other assorted petaccessories. Add to this the growing availability of pet supplies online (thesector saw 11.3% percent growth for online sales in 2019 alone) plus theopportunity to connect with veterinarians and other professionals remotely viatelehealth and other online options; the industry was well-positioned to takeadvantage of the COVID-19-induced circumstances.

All of this has meant a breakout start to 2020 for the pet industry. At SmallDoor Veterinary, from February to May, we’ve seen a 78 percent increase inmembership, alongside a 174% uptick in telemedicine usage and a 1,053%increase in web traffic to our online Learning Center, as isolated pet ownerslook for trusted resources and remote care.

4. Pets are a good investment.

For those looking to enter the pet industry, there are many factors toconsider. With pet ownership and consumer spending on a rapid ascent,investment in this sector will continue to keep pace. Venture investors areactively seeking counter-cyclical categories in the age of coronavirus. Soundbusiness plans should incorporate a clear value proposition, unique deliverymechanism, and competitive pricing structure and be sure to considerintegrating subject matter experts such as trained pet professionals into youradvisory board to validate medical claims, product concepts, and generallylend credibility if you’re new to the sector.

Over the past decade, pet food, toys, accessories, health offerings, andtraining tools have also greatly advanced to meet consumer demand for productsthat not only offer added health or psychological benefits to pets but alsocome with an aspirational lens fit for Instagram. Disruptive pet care brandssuch as Maev, Wild One, Sundays for Dogs, and West + Willow are just a fewexamples.

New entrants to the pet category should rethink traditional models by lookingat how physical products and food formulations can improve cognitive function,behavioral development, and more. Today’s pet toys double as brain games andhave shown to improve attention span and memory. Retail spaces and veterinaryoffices such as Small Door are following a pet-first, “fear free” model, whichaims to prevent or reduce fear, anxiety, and stress in pets as well as theircaregivers through thoughtful design.

While it may seem surprising that an industry could benefit from a recessionand pandemic, the pet industry is set to have a breakout year. With morepeople owning pets, owners spending more time with those pets, and taking moreopportunities to enhance their pets’ lifestyle and well-being, we can expectto see unprecedented growth during this recessionary period

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