by Ellyce Rothrock for Pet Product News

More people share their love with pets and care about their health, well-being and quality of life more than ever, if a record $60.28 billion in overall pet industry spending is a measure of love. It’s mind-boggling, in the best kind of way, for the entire pet industry, but such a staggering number truly makes one wonder where it all can go from here.

The future of the industry is going to be an interesting juggling act for retailers, who must cater to seniors, boomers and much-analyzed millennials, all of whom hold varied buying power, shop favored retail channels, and display disparate shopping behaviors and product preferences. Think of the gear-shifting sales and marketing approaches retailers will have to employ in order to appeal to everyone without alienating anyone.

Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, claims millennials now account for 31 percent of all pet owners, boasting 43 million pet owners in the 18- to 34-year-old age group; global research firm GfK claims 35.2 percent, making millennials the largest group of pet owners in the U.S. Drilling down further into the demographic, Packaged Facts reported that the number of millennial pet owners grew 25 percent between 2007 and 2015, and most of this 25 percent growth is with multicultural millennials—Latinos, in particular, are a key pet owner segment.

Where do those numbers take us? Well, the number of pet-owning millennials is expected to increase by 2.6 million between 2015 and 2020, and as recently as 2014, households headed by millennial consumers spent almost $11 billion on their pets, according to Packaged Facts.

“Millennials are more likely than other pet owners to both expect to spend and to actually spend more on higher-priced pet products and pet-care services,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts.

But what about the second and equally important half of the “future” question: the millennials who will manufacture product, operate independent pet retail stores and service businesses, and be the trendsetters?

At Global Pet Expo, I had the chance to interact with this very group of youthful and eager adults and ponder what the pet industry is doing to ensure their success.

TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, which has three stores in Georgia and is co-owned by Jusak Yang Bernhard and Jeffrey Allen Manley, won Pet Product News’ 2015-2016 Retailer of the Year Award in July of last year. As the head of our Retail Advisory Board, I (and our staff and writers) lean on TailsSpin and the other board retail partners pretty heavily to provide feedback on industry and product trends. So when Jusak and Jeffrey asked me if I would spend some time with them and some of their young team members at Global Pet Expo and share my industry knowledge and insights, I eagerly replied, “Of course!” I shelved my typical self-deprecating comments and acknowledged this opportunity as the mutual learning opportunity it posed.

For the greater part of an hour, Jusak and Jeffrey asked me (hard) questions to answer for the staff the pair had brought with them to Global, which included Rose Casesi, COO, Kristen Watson, district manager, Tom Kenkel, marketing director, Jennie Battle, Savannah store manager, Tess Jakubiec, Whitemarsh Island store manager, Aimee Dansky, Pooler store manager, and William Lucas, administrative assistant. All of them, except Jusak, Jeffrey and me, were millennials.

I answered their queries and offered opinions about Pet Product News’ considerations for developing content to share with readers, why folks should attend trade shows such as Global and SuperZoo and how to get the most out of them, how to recognize and address industry trends as they unfold, and much more. I felt like I resembled a professor holding a lecture (as my colleagues who witnessed the event in our booth joked) and hoped our exchange provided the group with useful, on-point and meaningful takeaways, but Jusak and Jeffrey wouldn’t have asked if we didn’t share great mutual respect and enjoy such a strong relationship, and I was happy to do it.

It struck me that as researchers tally and analyze pet industry demographics, spending and projections, TailsSpin’s millennial staff in front of me—the future of the pet industry—was set on ensuring the future success of their livelihoods. What a perfect opportunity for me to learn from them; after all, more young adults in the industry are reading Pet Product News, and it’s our mission to ensure that all readers are getting the news, data and commentary they need to run a profitable if not fulfilling and promising enterprise. Just as the industry will adapt to accommodate millennials, so, too, will our content.

I took everyone’s business cards and threatened to lean on them heavily in the future for insights, opinions and feedback, all with the goal of enveloping a new generation of readers and participants—pet retailers, manufacturers and service providers—into the greater Pet Product News conversation.

Sometimes at pet industry trade shows one never knows what might happen. My time well spent with TailsSpin was one such experience.

I so thoroughly enjoy Global Pet Expo, SuperZoo and all the other industry events I attend during the year, but when I find myself in a situation that places me in a new comfort zone and puts me on the spot, I feel an abundance of renewal, invigoration and exhilaration at what’s to come.

So here’s to the future of the pet industry! May all its numbers continue to grow.

 

This article originally appeared online at petproductnews.com and in the May 2016 print edition of Pet Product News. Ellyce Rothrock is the editor-in-chief for Pet Product News; contact her at erothrock@petproductnews.com.

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