As COVID-19 rates continue to drop and mandates increase, many retailers breathe a huge sigh of relief as business returns to normal. But what does “normal” mean after the pandemic has brought so many changes to pet owners and retailers? How many new trends and buying habits established in 2020 will be abandoned? How many will they stay?
This spring, the World Pet Association (WPA) reached out to retailers to find out what they’re going through as capacity restrictions disappear, supply chains normalize, and consumers return to work and their way. life before the pandemic.
“WPA’s goal is to provide retailers and service providers with the latest industry information that informs business decisions and maximizes current opportunities,” said WPA President Vic Mason. “From year-round engagement via WPA365’s on-demand marketplace to professional training and a huge showroom at SuperZoo, retailers rely on WPA for their knowledge and connection. “
The WPA’s flagship event, SuperZoo, returns in August with professional training, nearly 1,000 exhibitors, 800 new products, and countless ways for pet professionals to interact, share strategies and learn how to increase profitability.
What has been made clear by retailers is that the challenges of the past year have also brought positive changes. Since spring 2020, when customers started stockpiling large amounts of food at the same time as supply chains became unpredictable, purchasing behavior has stabilized.
“One great thing that came out of the pandemic is that customers have gotten used to ordering in advance but not hoarding,” said Kathy Palmer, owner of The Fish & Bone, a pet store in Boston. “I think the universal toilet paper shortage has made us all accept that sometimes we can’t rely on the essentials. Now customers are more organized but also more flexible to switch to options in stock. They also better understand delivery times.
Craig Maggio, CEO of Friendly Pets, which has three stores in New Hampshire, agreed that customers are becoming more flexible and not as reliant on online orders as they were a year ago.
“The escalation of e-commerce has been evident since last year,” he said. “But supply chain disruptions have driven some customers back to bricks and mortar, which is positive. We have also seen an increase in the purchase of small animal enrichment toys and treats as well as pet chews and treats.
Additionally, customers show their gratitude to stores that have stayed open and gone the extra mile to ensure their pets are safe and fed.
“I’m seeing a renaissance in local shopping,” said Adam Jacobson, executive vice president of Pet One Group / Pet Pantry Warehouse, which has branches in New York and Connecticut. “Due to COVID-19 and its impact on local communities, customers are more aware than ever that if they want their cities to continue to thrive, then they must take action by spending money on their stores. brick and mortar premises. . As a result, we’ve seen an increase in foot traffic as well as average ticket spending as our local mandates relax.
New products are even more popular
Each year, new products drive sales as well as enthusiasm among retailers and owners. With many pet owners working from home, they are looking for puzzles, chew toys, and other activities that can keep pets entertained during Zoom calls and big projects. True to the upward trend over the past decade, unique diets and foods that promote health and longevity remain popular.
“We are seeing more and more customers looking for lightly cooked frozen diets to feed as a complete meal or as a garnish,” Jacobson said. “Many parents of pets with immunocompromised animals realize that minimally processed foods can be an excellent basis for holistically caring for their pets with chronic health conditions.”
CBD (cannabidiol) products are also flying off the shelves, especially to help anxious and arthritic pets.
“It’s getting easier and easier to talk to customers and our team about CBD, as producers have demystified and distilled relevant information to a level that makes it easy to communicate dosage and benefits,” said Palmer. “I’m also enjoying new formats, including oils, soft treats, peanut butter and now water-based solutions. “
Maggio added that as a buyer he is always on the lookout for new and fresh products from independent companies.
“Providing offers that can only be purchased in-store can drive traffic to our store,” he said. “Protection against price increases is a valuable attribute when researching new products. “
New generation of owners
The work-from-home lifestyle over the past year has encouraged many young professionals to bring pets into their homes, ushering in a new demographic of buyers, especially in the small pets category.
“We have seen an increase in Generation Z buyers,” said Maggio. “Owning a dog or a cat isn’t necessarily good for everyone, and we often find that younger generations start out with smaller pets, reptiles and aquatic animals. “
Young owners tend to buy more than their pets and often seek products that match their personal ideals. Jacobson noticed that younger pet owners tend to read labels better and have developed an affinity for organic and altruistic brands.
“I really think the new generation of consumers cares about the honesty, integrity and ethics of a brand more than being drawn to a big name,” added Jacobson.
Change is constant
The general message that retailers delivered in the survey is that while pet retailers can take advantage of post-pandemic trends, the industry is likely to change and change again before the end of the year. The best way to stay on top is to be informed and connected.
This year, SuperZoo will return to an in-person format, allowing for meaningful conversations, in-depth training, demos, and products you can test and experience up close. Mark your calendar and subscribe to superzoo.org today to reconnect with the pet community August 16-19 in Las Vegas.