dog walker stock

Although the pet industry is famously downturn-resistant, hands-on pet care services outside of the veterinary sector—grooming, boarding, pet sitting/walking, and training—were inherently vulnerable to COVID-19 setbacks, according to market research firm Packaged Facts.

The two travel-related pet service segments, boarding and pet sitting/walking, suffered the most due to COVID-19, with sales plummeting 45 percent and 35 percent, respectively, in 2020, according to Packaged Facts’ just released report Pet Services in the U.S. The overall non-medical pet services sector dipped 22 percent to $8.1 billion.

“This relative resilience owes to the strong momentum that pet services carried into the pandemic,” according to David Lummis, author of the report. Sales momentum was and will resume being driven by the pets-as-family mentality, by brick-and-mortar retailers’ increased emphasis on services rather than products (to better compete with the internet), by the distinctive pet care spending of millennials, and by the upper-income household skew driving discretionary spending in the pet industry overall, according to Packaged Facts officials.

Pet service demographics are disproportionately upscale and urban, officials noted. For example, use of dog training skews to owners with a household income of $100,000 or more, who live in the top 10 metropolitan areas, or who have graduate degrees.

Also softening the stay-at-home blow of the pandemic, and boding well for pet service sales going forward, is the pet acquisition boom in the wake of COVID-19. Packaged Facts estimates that 13 percent of households (or 23 percent of current pet-owning households) added a dog to their home in the previous 12 months, while 11 percent added a cat in that same period.

The non-medical pet services business will continue to benefit from these factors, as well as from the ongoing venture capital investment that now characterizes the pet industry, officials said.