Now that we are in the political silly season in the U.S., it is sometimes difficult to tell fact from fiction. In politics, it is often hard for folks to agree on the facts, let alone reach a consensus opinion. Let’s take a look at some facts involving the pet industry, then see if my opinions are on base or out in left field, to use another seasonal analogy. Baseball is far more interesting than politics, don’t you agree?
Fact: “Finding Dory” is one of the top domestic box-office hits of the summer and has a shot at becoming the biggest animated film ever.
Opinion: The pet industry got out in front of the story this time, muting critics’ claims that the industry exploits marine fish and harms the environment. PIJAC and the Pet Leadership Council (PLC) worked with the Walt Disney Co. to create a series of educational pieces that help consumers understand the commitment of time, money and resources needed to maintain a home aquarium. The website www.happyhealthyfish.pet was launched just before “Finding Dory” premiered, including links to other helpful websites, such as a cool, interactive game developed for the PLC that rewards players for providing proper care for their digital fish.
Fact: Four in 10 U.S. households have a dog today. Based upon U.S. Census Bureau projections, and assuming the ratio of dogs per household remains static, the demand for pet dogs will grow to 95 million animals by 2025.
Opinion: This is great news for retailers selling dog supplies, provided the supply of animals can keep up with demand. But efforts are underway in many cities and towns across the country to cut off consumers’ access to puppies sold in retail pet stores under the pretext of helping shelters get more dogs adopted and shutting down “puppy mills.” But pet sale bans are based on not one, but two, false premises.
First, shelters cannot come close to providing the number of dogs needed to meet demand. Even if every shelter dog was adopted, the total number of dogs available is 3.3 million (and we know that not every shelter dog is adoptable due to medical or behavioral issues). If shelters can only supply for between 25-30 percent of American pet owners’ needs, where will all of the other dogs come from? Shutting down pet store sales will have no impact on adoption rates and will only limit consumers’ choices when it comes to selecting the pet that is most appropriate for them.
Second, USDA-licensed and inspected commercial breeders are not “puppy mills.” Conflating commercial breeders with puppy mills is how animal rights activists are convincing local elected officials to pass puppy sale bans. Are there bad actors out there who give the whole industry a black eye? Of course. Could breeding standards be strengthened based on the best science available today? They could and they are. Purdue University’s Center for Animal Welfare Science is about to conclude a two-year study that will result in science-based standards developed for the care and well-being of dogs bred commercially.
Fact: U.S. Retail Sales totaled $2.367 trillion in the 12 months through May, up 2.1 percent year-over-year. Retail sales excluding gas stations are up 3.9 percent.
Opinion: Strong employment and rising wages are driving consumer spending. Are your sales up nearly 4 percent? If not, it’s time to figure out why your slice of the pie is shrinking. A study reported in Retailing Today on “The Shopping Habits of American Women” revealed that price was ranked first among factors affecting shopping behavior. Consumers have an array of tools available today to help them compare prices. But shoppers for pet products listed “in-store displays” as their first choice, nearly twice as often as Amazon or Google.
That’s great news for retail pet stores. But once the customer is in your store, you need to make a connection that goes beyond price and keeps them coming back. A well-trained staff is a good place to start and Pet Store Pro, the free online training program brought to you by the Pet Industry Distributors Association, has everything you need.