FEATURE20 June 2022

Pampered pets: the market for animal companion products

Features Retail Travel Trends UK

Britain is a nation of pet lovers and recent research shows that many of us want to spoil our four-legged friends by getting them involved in family celebrations and taking them with us wherever we go. So what can marketers and researchers learn from this enduring obsession? Attest’s Jeremy King attempts to find out.

A cat and a dog share a drinking bowl

If you're one of the 11% of households who got themselves a new pet during the pandemic, then you're in good company. Attest’s pet survey conducted in February shows that just under three-quarters of UK homes now have at least one pet. 

It seems that Brits prefer canines over felines, with 65% of animal owners having a pet dog, while 41% of households play host to a cat. Fish come in third place, with 11% of pet owners having an aquatic companion, followed by rabbits ( 6%), rodents ( 6%), birds ( 3%), reptiles ( 3%) and horses or donkeys ( 2%). While there are 25% of households in the UK that have no pets at all, 40% have one, 21% have two, 5% have three and 9% four or more. 

Part of the family

As well as opening up our homes to them, we clearly like to treat our pets as part of the family too. Nearly six in 10 ( 58%) say they buy birthday and Christmas presents for their pets and 38% bring them along wherever they go when possible. Half of pet owners are prepared to let their companion sleep on their bed and the same proportion buy premium pet food, while 18% actually cook and prepare food for their little pals.

The majority of pet owners surveyed spend between £26 and £50 ( 40%) on their pets monthly, with only 18% spending less than this. Some 19% spend between £5 and £75 and 12% between £76 and £100. How much money they spend is just as instructive as where they actually spend it: a clear majority favour physical bricks-and-mortar stores – whether pet shops or supermarkets – to online outlets.

The importance of physical retail outlets

There are several insights that marketers and researchers can draw from this data. Firstly, as the pandemic e-commerce boom seems not to have happened in this category, it is important for pet brands to ensure that their products are available in actual stores and not just online. It’s logical that pet owners would want to make many purchases in person rather than virtually, given that items like toys and accessories such as harnesses, collars and leads need to be well-suited to the pet and fit correctly. 

Secondly, pet brands need to cater for special occasions and days out. Pet owners want to celebrate not only birthdays, but other significant events such as Easter, Christmas, New Year and Halloween too, so planning promotions for these times of year could reap rewards.

In terms of birthday celebrations for pets, brands would do well to ensure they collect the right data from customers; this means not just the date of birth of the pet, but the type of animal, gender, name and so on in order to gurantee they can offer personalised presents when the time is right. 

Factoring in travel and insurance

Finally, pet brands need to ensure that their product offering covers everything that pet owners might want. Many people love to take their pets with them everywhere they go, so travel accessories such as carriers and portable water dispensers are a must. More than a third give their pets vitamins and supplements, meaning this is a product range that requires attention too, while the data also shows that four out of 10 pets are uninsured. Therefore, partnerships with insurance companies could prove to be highly beneficial for pet brands.

The research confirms that, for many of us, pets are important family members. We go to significant lengths to make animals feel a part of everyday life – from birthday celebrations to home-cooked food and regular outings. It’s key for marketers operating in this area to understand how our love for our pets manifests itself in order to take advantage of the opportunities it presents.  

Jeremy King is chief executive and founder of Attest