Is your pet business market declining? How you can successfully market to the shifting demographic of pet product and service buyers.

For the first time since pet industry statistics have been tracked, pet ownership is down in the United States.

Just this month the American Veterinary Medical Association provided a sneak peak at the 2012 Pet Ownership Demographics as part of their Sourcebook that will be available this fall.

In 1988, the first year the survey was conducted, 56% of U.S. households owned a pet as compared to 62% in 2008.

Growth has been steady in pet ownership, however the latest AVMA's report indicates, 'Americans had 2 million fewer dogs and 7.6 million fewer cats at the end of last year (2011) than at the end of 2006."

Their survey also indicates most pet owners have dogs at nearly 70 million, or 36.5% of U.S. homes. Cats are in 30.4% of homes at 74 million.

This is in comparison to their 2006 statistics indicating the canine population dropped from about 72 million in 2006 to 70 million in 2011, a 2.8 percent decrease, while the feline population fell by 9.3 percent, from about 81.7 million in 2006 to 73.1 million in 2011.

What are the factors precipitating the decline in US pet ownership? There are several factors, we believe.

The first being the economy. Since the decline of the economy starting in 2007-2008, many US households have seen a decline in income, topped with higher expenditures, job loses and more.(simplified). As individuals encountered more difficulties in finances, pet ownership declined as less pets were brought into homes.

The second precipitating factor is the aging baby boomer population who have historically become four-legged parents as their two-legged kids have left home. The baby boomer generation has been the primary pet purchaser over recent years. As the baby boomers age, and their pets reach old age and the end of their lives, this aging population is less likely to add another pet to their family.

With population growth hovering around percentage growth rates of .90 over the past years and predicted to range from .90 to .70 percent in years leading to 2050, where is the market shift to indicate this decline?

Taking into account the pet business market, which historically has been women between the ages of 25-55 primarily, you can see a shift occurring in the overall population growth within these ranges. Within the general population, the number of women in age ranges of 35-45 has been declining over recent years.

In addition, the number of women, ages 15-34, has been leveling and/or slightly declining in recent years. Compare this with women, ages 45-65 (which has been the pet business market over the past 15-20 years) has significant growth rates over many past years.

What this means is that the market for pet business products and services will be declining slightly in years to come.

So what is a pet business to do?

The coming years will see a shift in who purchases pet business products and services; shifting from the present day market of women, ages 25-55, to the upcoming market of women currently between the ages of 8-51.

This next generation of purchasers of pet products and services include the 13th Generation or GenX, who are presently 31-51 years old, and the Millennial Generation or GenY who are  presently 8-30 years old.

The Ethics Resource Center has put together a great study on the behaviors and characteristics of these various generations in comparison to the Baby Boomers.They indicate:
  • While Baby Boomers (also classified as the 'Me' Generation) were raised during a time of economic prosperity and are classified as hardworking, idealistic and committed, they are also classified as self-centered, workaholics that have a sense of entitlement.
  • The GenX generation is entrepreneurial, flexibile, creative and comfortable with technology, yet are cynical and skeptical, question authority and are sometimes considered more 'lazy'. 
  • The GenY generation is very tech savvy, are skilled multi-taskers and appreciate diversity, yet have a short attention span and are not loyal to organizations, segmentally.
This would indicate that the present and recent past way of marketing to the pet business market which is/was to appeal to their pet's sense of entitlement and the idealist vision of pets as four-legged family members and pushing loyalty, is beginning to turn to the present and forward thinking marketing tactics for GenX through 'proof in the pudding,' 'what's in it for me,' educational through an easy means of communication via technological advances, such as social media and the Internet, will progress even more to quick, pointed, flexible, social and visual messaging through even more advanced technological means that satisfy the GenX lifestyle.

It's not difficult to market to those we know and understand. What will be a challenge is understanding those generations that come after us and how best to reach, interact and satisfy their wants and needs to keep your pet business successful in future years.

For help in planning your future marketing strategy, tactics and messaging, feel free to contact Pawsible Marketing for a 30 minute exploratory discussion about how we can help your pet business.
Sources: AVMA, APPA, Google Public Population Data, Ethics Resource CenterWikipedia. Photo/chart courtesy of Janet Loehrke, USAToday. Photos courtesy of Sean MacEntee and Yukari.

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