The ads for Pets.com may state otherwise, but the online vendor of pet products, as well as dozens of others in the industry, are banking on the fact that pets can drive - business, that is. According to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, consumer spending on pet products and services increased at an annual rate of 9 percent between 1993 and 1997, totaling $23 billion annually by the end of the five-year period. And while online sales of pet stuff may seem like table scraps by comparison, still, we're not just talking kibble here! According to the latest report by ActivMedia Research, online sales of pet supplies could hit $800 million this year - up from $300 million in 1999.
The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reports that more than 60 percent of U.S. households own a pet and 40 percent of those households own more than one. So exactly what breed are these people? The 1999 Survey of People and Pet Relationships, conducted by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), sheds some light on the subject. An overwhelming majority of survey respondents (80 percent) were female, but since two out of three pet owners are married, it's likely there are more men out there emptying the litter box than the survey suggests. Also, in 70 percent of pet households there were no children under the age of 18, but that doesn't mean the owners aren't mommies and daddies: 84 percent of pet owners refer to themselves as their pet's parents.
And like good parents, pet owners involve their "children" in nearly every aspect of their lives: 43 percent have a photograph of their pet on display at the office, and 31 percent carry one in their wallet - an item likely to come in handy since a plurality of owners (34 percent) talk with friends and co-workers about their pets more than anything else. But people don't just talk about their pets: 78 percent of owners greet their furry friends first upon arriving home, while spouses come in a distant second at 13 percent. Thirty percent admit to cooking a meal specifically for their pet, and one in four say they've made a birthday cake especially for Fluffy. But the birthday celebration doesn't stop there: 26 percent have sung happy birthday, 25 percent have wrapped gifts for their pets, and 5 percent have given their animal friends a greeting card.
Maybe Pets.com's new slogan should be "Pets can't read!"
Of course, owners can, so in November, Pets.com broke into the print world with a new bimonthly publication, Pets.com, The Magazine. Celebrating the relationship between people and their pets, 1 million copies of the magazine are distributed in vets' offices and through a direct mail campaign. Pets.com also filed for an initial public offering in December, in hopes of raising $80 million. Won't somebody throw them a bone?
For more information about the 1999 Survey of People and Pet Relationships, contact the American Animal Hospital Association at (800) 252-2242.