There's Profit in Pet Products The Buzz


People are treating pets like members of the family. It's a trend that is leading many companies to cater to consumers who want to pamper Fido or Fluffy with everything from hotels for cats to liposuction for dogs.

"In the last 10 years, more people are turning to pets for comfort, companionship and therapy," says Bob Vetere. He's the managing director of the American Pet Products Association. "As the world becomes less secure, we turn to pets for comfort."

Studies show that animals make people happier and healthier. Some experts recommend that business establishments have fish tanks. Other studies show that stressed people lower their blood pressure if they pet a dog. "A pet is a non-judgmental companion," Vetere says.

People are willing to pay a lot of money for pet-pampering products and services. High-end services include pet hotels with heated floors, fluffy pillows and DVD players. Other services include liposuction for dogs, animal massages, and aromatherapy treatments. Animal psychics will tell you what your pet is feeling.

Luxury pet care products are popular as well. You can buy a plastic tray containing real sod. You toss it in the truck for your dog to use on long trips, or take it with you to the hotel room.

Other products include a treadmill for dogs, automatic timing feeders and automatic cleanup for cat litter pans. A Japanese company is selling a gadget that hangs around a dog's neck. It tells you what the dog's bark means. This item is so popular that they are making a similar product for cats.

"Many of these new products allow working people to keep pets in their home conveniently. They also allow seniors to have a pet where they couldn't before," Vetere says.

Louis McCann is the executive director of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) Canada. He agrees that there is an increasing need for luxury pet products. "Trade shows have a steady increase in exhibitors showing high-end products. Especially, you see luxury apparel such as boots, coats, jackets and leashes."

Our interest in luxury pet products is creating a niche for imaginative entrepreneurs. In 2002, Julia Oulton noticed that her dog was having trouble jumping onto his favorite chair. The animal needed a lower chair. But she couldn't find a suitable item in the stores.

Oulton and her husband recognized the opportunity. They began making and selling custom-designed animal furniture. Pet owners can order a small sofa or chair that matches their human sofa and chair.

"Some people spend unbelievable amounts of money," says Oulton. "Our animal sofas are as expensive as human sofas. Professional upholsterers work on them."

Oulton has expanded her product line to smaller items such as charms for dog collars and lap mats. She hopes to be distributing a high-end line of dog collars and harnesses from Italy in time for Christmas shopping. "It's important to find a niche and come up with unique products," she says. "Don't try to be everything to everybody."

According to McCann, pet owners are interested in animal health. Veterinary services are offering expensive treatments like chemotherapy for dogs. Veterinarians now routinely provide animal dentistry. Similarly, more people are buying pet insurance.

Pet owners also buy nutritional food for their animals. Vitamin-enriched foods, natural foods, raw foods and foods that promote good dental health are popular.

"People want to feed their pets the same quality of food that they eat themselves," says Dave Prevost. He is the general manager of a natural pet product store. "And people have better information now about pet food ingredients."

In addition to working as trained veterinarians and veterinary technicians, people are finding work providing services like dog walking, pet grooming, and doggie day care.

Pet shops, pet superstores and other big department stores are looking for certified animal handlers, Vetere explains. Certification is available through organizations such as the American Pet Products Association.

Those preferring to work in the business side will do best with training in sales and marketing. A good knowledge of math is essential.

McCann points out that mom-and-pop businesses are on their way out in the pet industry. Young, aggressive professionals are coming in and redefining the business plan. They are willing to pay for trained workers.

"A combination of training will be the best fit," says McCann. "If you combine veterinary technician courses with administration courses, and you have the ability to provide staff training, then you will be a very valuable asset on the floor."

You will also need good people skills. You will be dealing with pet owners who have very strong feelings about their animals. "And if you are not an animal lover yourself, you might get by, but you are not likely to be terribly successful," says Prevost.

Links

American Pet Products Association
This association serves the interests of pet products manufacturers and importers

Pet Care Business Ideas
Check out this site for inspiration

Jog-a-Dog
Get your dog its own exercise treadmill