Humanization in High Gear
I’m not one to harp on the term pet humanization. Don’t get me wrong; I understand that it is a very real trend that is having a profound impact in pet stores across the country—and around the world. But I have often felt that it has become so ubiquitous among pet product marketers that, over the years, it has almost reached cliché status.
That is until I read an article in the New York Post that opened my eyes to just how deep people’s love for their pets has truly become. The story details a bill in the New York State Senate that would allow cremated pet remains to be buried with their owners. Garnering significant support in the legislature, the bill passed two committees and, as of press time, stood poised for a floor vote.
This really is a whole new level of connection between humans and their pets—or is it? After all, members of ancient Egyptian royalty were often interred with their animal companions; though if I remember what I learned in my high school history class correctly, the Egyptians did not exactly wait for the pets to pass on naturally before giving them the mummy treatment and stashing them in a pharaoh’s tomb.
Still, the bill currently being considered in New York (by the way, Pennsylvania already has a similar bill on the books) does serve to highlight the prominent place that pets have risen to in modern culture. This, of course, is great news not only for the funeral homes and cemeteries specializing in joint human/pet burials that will likely be popping up now, but also for businesses that cater to a decidedly more lively audience of pet owners.
Pet humanization has given rise to a number of product categories that, even a couple of decades ago, would have been unfathomable, including raw and organic foods, luxury grooming products, high-end apparel and accessories, and—as you will read in this month’s cover story—licensed pet products. Whether they are looking for a trusted brand from the world of human products to use on their pets, or they want to extend their fandom to their furry, finned or feathered friends, shoppers are actively going to pet stores to seek out merchandise that directly reflects their own personal interests and sensibilities.
Given the fact that shoppers are often almost as passionate about their brand loyalties and favorite pop-culture icons as they are about their animals, the decision to carry an assortment of licensed pet products seems like a no-brainer for pet stores—especially when considering that these items often carry premium margins for pet stores. However, it is imperative that retailers take a careful, strategic approach to offering licensed merchandise, as not every brand or character is going to work with every store’s unique customer base.
Ultimately, your success will depend on your ability to separate the winning licenses from those that would be better placed six feet under.