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Expanding pet offerings may help attract the elusive millennial shopper

Millennials are now the largest pet-owning demographic, and they're buying more than just food.

Michael Browne

April 5, 2018

2 Min Read
Expanding pet offerings may help attract the elusive millennial shopper

If retailers are interested in increasing their sales of pet products, they would be wise to expand their offering beyond food and kitty litter. And, along the way, they could build relationships with millennials—who are now the largest pet-owning demographic, with 35 percent of pets owned by millennials, according to the American Pet Products Association.

For retailers, the $69.4 billion pet industry offers a significant opportunity to reach this millennial pet-obsessed generation, according to a new report from e-commerce retailer Zulily. Looking at shoppers as a whole, 42 percent of pet spending was on pet food in 2016 and a whopping $14.7 billion was spent on items such as beds, collars, leashes, toys, travel items, clothing, food and water bowls, and other accessories. (Based on figures from Market Insights, there are currently 45 million dog owners and 30 million cat owners in the United States.)

Young consumers think differently about what is essential when purchasing products, notes the report, which says, “Millennials will buy discretionary products under the guise that they are non-discretionary.” So it may not be a surprise that 92 percent of millennial pet owners purchase gifts for their pets, such as toys, clothing and treats. While birthdays, Christmas and Hanukkah are popular occasions to buy gifts for a pet, more than half (51 percent) buy their pets a gift at least once a month. Men, however, are the more generous gifters, with 55 percent purchasing gifts for their pets once a month or more, compared to 47 percent of women. On average, millennials who buy their pets gifts on a monthly basis do so four times a month.

Of course, like all shopping these days, supermarkets, pet stores and other retail outlets will have to compete with online retailing, which has built a firm niche in the category. Just over three-quarters (77 percent) of millennial pet owners prefer to buy certain items online rather than a brick-and-mortar retailer, and top purchases include toys (40 percent), accessories (32 percent) and pet food (31 percent).

“Younger shoppers are quite discerning when it comes to the products they consider good enough for their pets,” said Nathan Richter, senior partner at Wakefield Research. “Whether it’s food or clothing and accessories, their preferences differ depending on whether they are shopping at large versus small retailers, or online versus in-person. This is not the generation that is looking for one-stop-shop convenience, so retailers need to be sure they have an optimal mix of high-quality and specialty products.”

This piece originally appeared on Supermarket News, a New Hope Network sister website. Visit the site for more grocery trends and insights.

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