Pet Spend Shifts Online With Pandemic

dog with man

Americans spent $95.6 billion in 2019 feeding and caring for their pets. To provide some perspective on how big that number is, if the pet industry was a country it would have the 60th highest GDP in the world, right between Angola and Kenya. With so much at stake during the pandemic, it’s no surprise that the business has moved with the digital shift.

“Our eCommerce capabilities have been a top priority and an area of growth for us since well before COVID, and the pandemic has only accelerated that focus and growth,” Petco Chief Digital and Innovation Officer Darren MacDonaldtells PYMNTS. “Our online growth is actually representative of a larger shift toward omnichannel shopping where more and more customers are shopping in multiple channels like in-store, online, with services and our vet clinics.  For many customers during the COVID period they’ve either shifted some of their spend online or moved it to our online business from a competitor.”

The exact scale of that shift is hard to quantify and MacDonald did not give specific numbers. According to Packaged Facts, as cited in Pet Product News, eCommerce was the fastest growth channel for pet product sales in 2019, surging 24 percent to $12.2 billion, with pet food taking 66 percent of this amount and online sales representing 73 percent of pet food industry growth. Although there are no hard numbers on adoptions and pet sales during the pandemic, anecdotal reports say they have spiked as people seek some kind of comfort and companionship during the pandemic.

“Earlier in the year we experienced a roller coaster as consumers stocked up and then sheltered at home,” says MacDonald. “But through this crisis, we’ve seen just how essential Petco and our team members are in pets’ lives. Petco is the grocery store, the pharmacy and the doctor’s office for our nation’s pets, so we’ve been open to serve the needs of pets and pet parents throughout the pandemic, and everything we’ve done to adapt to consumer demands in the COVID environment has only made us stronger.”

Petco and the other retail market leader, PetSmart, have tried to integrate some of the same promotions and online features usually attributed to more personal human products to the category. Last week PetSmart, the leading pet specialty retailer, announced it will offer on-demand delivery service across more than 1,400 of its store locations nationwide, through DoorDash. Shoppers can place their orders for same-day delivery on or the PetSmart mobile app.

Promotions are rolling out as well. Petco is even going where humans can’t this year with a “Bootique” costume store online and in stores.

“Everything we offer — whether product or service, in-store or online — is to support the overall health and well-being of pets and enhance the bonds between pets and their parents,” says MacDonald. “Especially now, as we are all weathering a pandemic and staying home more, most people are feeling closer to their pets than ever before, so our marketing and product offerings always seek to reflect this.”