Good economic news during the pandemic

Charlie Powell

Obviously, a pandemic affects money matters, most notably the business sector.

One sector — U.S. pet product sales — has actually thrived during this time and appears to be all but bullet-proof, regardless of what is happening in all other sectors.

Here is my takeaway if you are in a hurry this morning. A product sales sector is sometimes wholly based upon something for which people feel unconditional love will survive. Today, that love is heaped upon pets and shows no evidence of slowing down.

To first address the question of “love” of pets, trust me that in today’s world, it is true love in the purest form. Also know it is not how I was raised.

In the U.S. and a few other parts of the world today, pets really are loved. That love becomes more intense as we observe most younger adults, especially couples. The saying is that pets have become the children of the 21st century. I believe it.

Let’s look at those economic figures though, something I try to bring to this column every couple of years. It is dramatic to see how little the pet product sales sector has been affected in the Year of COVID-19.

For my business friends, my data comes from David Lummis, the lead pet market analyst for Packaged Facts, a division of He is the author of Packaged Facts’ “U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2020-2021: Responding to the COVID-19 Impact,” published in March.

Lummis updated and revised the new projections in June and the full analysis is here: His data are from this report and Packaged Facts’ “March/April 2020 Survey of Pet Owners and July 2020 report, Pet Food in the U.S., 15th Edition.”

So what factors beyond “love” are making this happen?

Lummis wrote one of the factors that brought a surge to the market sector was “widespread panic purchasing and stockpiling during the initial period of shutdowns­ — a response that might recur in the event of COVID-19 case resurgences and future shutdowns.”

Lummis also noted that a significant and ongoing period of lost business for nonmedical pet care services prompted a spike in sales for DIY retail products for pet grooming, oral care, flea/tick, supplements and other health products. He indicated this extends further as a “new normal” with stay-at-home lifestyle increasing sales of such items as “pet gates to seal off working-from-home spaces, and leashes, collars, and backyard throw toys to keep pet owners/pets exercising.”

Classifying pet stores and the like as essential businesses helped, as did aggressive online shopping outlets and curbside delivery for local businesses.

Finally, Lummis wrote, consider the enormous surge in pet adoptions as well as sales of pets that aren’t typically adopted. People want companionship, simple as that.

About 8 percent of pet owners reported they adopted a pet specifically because of coronavirus, including 13 percent of “other” (non dog/cat) pet owners, 10 percent of cat owners and 9 percent of dog owners.

More than 25 percent of current pet owners acquired another pet of various species in the past 12 months, including 14 percent of dog owners, 12 percent of cat owners and 9 percent of owners of other pets.

About 10 percent of pet owners acquired another pet in the last 3 months — during the initial coronavirus pandemic. That was including 5 percent of dog owners, 4 percent of cat owners and 4 percent of owners of pets other than dogs or cats.

Finally, Lummis wrote, “It now appears all but certain that … the U.S. pet industry, and especially the pet products sector, may emerge stronger and more flexible.”

Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service.

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