Are consumers pinching pennies this holiday seasion? Not likely.

From the Associated Press this morning...

Pinching pennies? Not these proud pet parents.

...The American Pet Products Association estimates Americans will spend $43.4 billion this year on their pets — a figure that includes everything from treats to training — despite the dramatic slowdown in discretionary spending. That's 26 percent higher than what U.S. consumers spent in 2004, the group said.

Market researcher Euromonitor International, which tracks sales of pet food and accessories but excludes the cost of animals, grooming, training and other expenses, puts this year's animal expenditures at $23.9 billion.

But the group forecasts the segment's sales are still on pace to grow more than 13 percent by 2013...

...Still, there are signs that the most extravagant expenses — such crystal bowls and custom-made pet beds — may be sidelined amid growing economic uncertainty.

"Gone are the days when people would buy $100 collars and fake fur," said Claire Chew, of Venice, Calif., who founded Luxepets, a line of pet keepsakes.

American Pet Products Association spokeswoman Leah Nelson said the group doesn't release industry sales projections, but that it is "eyeing the future" with caution.

That's why Paige Ormand, the owner of the Doggy Style Pet Shop in Chicago's Wicker Park neighborhood, is ordering more products that are less expensive — for example, $5 toys instead of $20 models.

But she's not removing expensive gifts from her store shelves, either.

"This industry is way more insulated than other businesses," she said. "But I wouldn't say it's recession proof."


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