Why Luxury For Pets Is A Booming Business

People may feel the squeeze on their finances, but when it comes to their pets, they are prepared to spend, with the luxury pet market providing incredibly buoyant. Data from MoneySuperMarket revealed that pet owners in the UK spend almost £500 ($620) a year on luxury items for their pets, from designer clothing and luxury beds to toys and gourmet treats, with seven out of 10 willing to spend more on luxuries for their animals than for themselves.

One of the drivers of this trend was the surge in pet ownership, particularly dogs, during lockdown. A total of 3.2 million households in the UK have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic, according to figures from UK Pet Food, formerly the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, which has created opportunities for entrepreneurs looking to break into this lucrative market.

Katja Schell opened her luxury doggie boutique, Eric & Dolly’s, three years ago. Named after her dogs, Boston terrier Eric and English bull terrier Dolly, it stocks a range of stylish dog accessories from leading global brands.

“People enjoy spoiling their dogs because it makes them feel better, and they will treat their pets before they treat themselves,” says Schell. “One customer, a young girl, came in to spend her birthday money on something nice for her dog. People love the high-end accessories, coats, harnesses and toys, but for many customers, just buying a small gift for their dog brings them a lot of pleasure.”

Location has been key. The shop is situated in the village of Burnham Market in Norfolk. Often referred to as Chelsea-on-Sea, for its lively social life, upmarket businesses and affluent residents, it has an exclusive reputation. It is also a tourist hotspot, extremely popular with dog owners.

Schell gave up a successful career in recruitment to start her business, an experience she describes as challenging. She says: “I’d never worked in retail, so getting the stock right, even learning how to use a till, was a steep learning curve, but within six months, I knew what my customers wanted. I am very confident around people and their dogs and love interacting with them in the shop. The personal service, for example, fitting harnesses and coats and making a big fuss of the dogs, is a big part of our success.”

She also faced a tricky start because of the pandemic. The shop was ready to launch in April 2020, just as the lockdown happened. It finally opened in June, but it wasn’t until the following year that things returned to normal.

More recently, the biggest threat to retailers has been the cost of living crisis; but not, it seems, for those in the luxury pet industry. “The cost of living crisis hasn’t impacted business,” says Schell. “People still want stylish things that are also practical, and buying them for their pets is a feel-good factor. It hasn’t surprised me that this market has been so resistant.”

Breaking into the market requires thorough research, as more and more businesses targeting the luxury end of the pet care industry are springing up. Being a pet owner unveils its challenges, so brands need to understand and cater to them, as Kimberley Howard, a cultural analyst at insight market research agency Verve, explains.

“Exploring the pet ownership journey, with the pains and pleasures, can unveil innovation opportunities,” she says. “For example, CocoPup is a luxury pet bag brand. Recognizing the need for dog walkers to multitask, carrying treat pouches, water bottles, leads, etc. all on one journey, they created stylish pet bags with clever storage compartments for ease.”

It’s also worth studying trends in human and even baby products. “Pets mean more to people now than pre-pandemic; indeed, people are increasingly seeing their pets in the same light as children, or even choosing pets over children,” said Howard. “Entrepreneurs could look to emerging trends in baby products to predict what may be next for our pets. Trends tend to follow suits. From natural and organic food to sensory play and talking games, looking to these parallel spaces can help inspire innovation.”

Another factor in the booming sector is the impact of social media influencers. Jenny Tsai, founder and CEO of influencer effectiveness solution WeArisma, says: “The UK pet market has been valued at £5.9 billion and with 37% of Brits saying they would buy products for their dogs based on recommendations on platforms such as TikTok and Instagram, we have seen an increase in the number of ‘petfluencers’.

“This has also become an important marketing channel for luxury brands with pet lines such as Gucci, Celine and Moncler. According to our influencer analytics, since the start of 2022, these luxury brands have generated a media value of $4.8 million and over 3.1 million engagements across key social channels with their luxury pet collections.”

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