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Britain has always been a nation of animal lovers. Now, we’re an island oftruly pampered furry friends – with animals no longer regarded as pets, butone of the family. Even in turbulent economic times, Brits are putting pets’wellbeing before their own – and that’s music to the ears of pet accessoryretailers.

In stark contrast to declining High Street spending after years of austerity,the pet care market is buoyant as consumers spend more disposable income onluxury pet accessories and treats. No matter how long politicians fueluncertainty by arguing over Brexit, the nation’s pets will still need feeding,grooming and caring for, underpinning the strength of the sector.

Last October, a Mintel investigation into the market for pet care and pet fooddiscovered that 51 per cent of pet care buyers would “rather cut back spendingmoney on themselves than on their pets”. The highest proportion of Brits whosaid they’d be prepared to put their pets’ needs before their own weremillennials – those aged 19-38 – with 54 per cent saying they’d go without sothey could afford to pamper their pets. In fact, millennials take their pets’wellbeing so seriously, the survey claimed, that 30 per cent of young pet careshoppers said it was important that their pet keeps up with the latest trendssuch as clothing and grooming styles.

Mintel’s research lays bare why millennials’ pet requirements willincreasingly be high priority for retailers. Two in five (40%) of young petcare buyers admitted that they would spend just as much money on their pet atspecial times of the year such as Christmas as they would on a friend,compared to an average of 32% of all buyers. And this year, national retailchain Pets at Home made headlines with its Easter egg-style treats for dogs,cats and small animals.

Chana Baram, a retail analyst at Mintel, said pets are increasingly beingviewed as family members. Baram explained: “Pet owners are willing to offeranimals their own products and unique items, which often carry a higher pricetag and help to drive category growth.

“This ranges from animal-friendly pancakes and wine to dog hiking boots andanimal sleeping bags. The more pampered pooches enjoy dog beds with memoryfoam mattresses. Our research shows that millennials are particularly devotedto their furry companions. As the age of having children increases, some youngpeople are opting to first get a pet and treat them as a family member.”

Another factor that’s shaping the fortunes of the pet trade is the rise ofanimal social media influencers, which are most likely to appeal to themillennial demographic. ‘Doug the Pug’, for example, has 3.7 million Instagramfollowers.

So where will future market growth come from? Mintel’s Baram has a theory:“There are already pet Christmas and birthday presents available from a numberof retailers, but the willingness to spend just as much on a pet as a friendshows that there is an opportunity for retailers to offer more event-specificproducts. Having pet products for seasonal events such as Valentine’s Daywould likely prove popular with young consumers, and this could extend toother events such as weddings or funerals.”

Mintel found that 59% of British consumers own a pet, with full-time workersthe most likely to own one (66%). Dog ownership peaks among men, with 35%owning a hound compared to 31% of women, and younger millennials aged 19-28(42%). Cat ownership peaks among Brits aged 25-44. A third (33%) of Brits owna dog while three in ten (29%) own a cat.

Projected expansion of the pet sector is a key reason why Pets at Glee, partof the Glee exhibition at Birmingham’s NEC on 10th – 12th September, is avital area of the show. A study carried out for Glee found that, according toAMA Research, the total UK pet market was valued at £6.5billion in 2017, whenthe pet market accounted for 1.8% of the UK retail market. Analysts havepredicted “modest but continued steady growth” in the pet market – with avalue of £7billion forecast for 2020-21.

Glee Event Director, Matthew Mein , said: “The pet care sector iswitnessing a trend for pet anthromorphism – consumers increasingly treatingtheir pets as humans – and this is driving category growth. An unprecedentedlevel of premium and artisan products has launched over the past five years,projecting luxury pet goods into the mainstream market. Owners areincreasingly mirroring human styling and healthcare trends for their pets,which they want to feel cared for, comfortable and mentally stimulated.”

Tapping into potential in the pet market requires knowledge of a complex andfragmented sector, comprising eight sub-sectors: food and treats; grooming andcleaning; health, treatments and care; toys and accessories; coats andclothing; collars, leads and harnesses; pet mobility, flaps and bedding; andhouses tanks, cages and hutches.

According to Mintel, pet ownership has declined by 7% over five years, withjust over half (56%) of UK households owning a pet – down from 63% in 2012.However, increased spending saw the UK pet food market valued at £2.65billionin 2017, while the global pet grooming market is forecast to expand at acompound annual growth rate of 4.7% between 2015-2025. And despite being amature market, the pet accessories sector has a positive outlook, too. It’stipped to exceed £900million by 2021-2022, accounting for 12-14% of theoverall pet products market, with growth driven by buyers from pet superstoreswho are seeking novel products to stimulate consumer demand.

This year’s Pets at Glee promises to guide buyers across all sectors to moreinnovative products than ever before, including pet foods, supplements, toysand accessories. Located in a high footfall position near the entrance to Hall19, Pets at Glee will feature an interactive workshop space, comprisingsessions for pet buyers, while the latest and most ingenious products will beshowcased in a pet trend area.

With the pet sector comprising a diverse range of retail outlets, from petsuperstores and supermarkets to DIY multiples, vets, garden centres, mail-order catalogues, independent pet stores and websites, Pets at Glee will hosta dedicated networking space for pet care industry representatives to meetother industry professionals and do business.

And with major players confirming their attendance, including Trixie,Butchers, Canine and Co, Jacobi Jayne & Company, Marriage SpecialistFoods, RSW International, The Barking Bakery, Winners Europe, Bon EOOD, Global1 st Ltd, and H.von Gimborn , Pets at Glee will be the go-todestination for all pet care professionals who need to be first to see thelatest trends and innovation.

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