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Why Pet Supplies Spending Is Trending Downward

In 2015, the total amount Americans spent on their pets last year rose by $3.4 billion—thanks to a $5.4 billion jump in pet food spending—but pet supplies spending was down $2.1 billion.


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A fascinating division exists in what pet owners are spending their money on, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and a report by John Gibbons on his website Pet Business Professor.

While the total amount Americans spent on their pets last year rose by $3.4 billion to $67.75 billion, that was all accounted for by a huge jump of $5.4 billion in pet food spending.

But when Gibbons drills down behind the eye-catching total number for pet spending, he finds a significant drop in spending on pet supplies, which was down by $2.1 billion (12.4 percent in 2015).

Gibbons speculates that the big rise in pet food spending is directly related to the drop in pet supplies spending, because most households face some limit on what they can spend in any given month.

The average per-household expenditure on pet supplies was $116 in 2015, compared with $134 the year before. The drop was reflected across all income and age groups.

Supplies, he points out, often are a discretionary buy, while food is a necessity (although much of the rise in food spending is for premium, which is, to some extent, a discretionary purchase.)

He also cites government inflation figures that show significant price jumps in the pet supplies segment in the first nine months of 2015. At the same time, pet food spending was taking off, and veterinary spending ticked up by $2 billion in the second half of the year.

One other factor he cites is the growth of medications/supplements in the form of treats, which are classified in the government spending report as food rather than pills or powders, which count as supplies.

All in all, pet owners were spending a lot more last year, and it was the supplies category that suffered.

Two years ago, spending on pet supplies had taken off, and in 2014 it had leapt by more than $2 billion over the previous year before crashing back down in 2015.

What, Gibbons asks, can be done?

“The surest fix is innovation,” he stated. “Consumers will spend more if a product is demonstrably better or makes pet parenting easier.”

 

Steve LeGrice is the general manager of Pet Product News International.

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