Opportunity for All

Research conducted by the American Pet Products Association reveals that the pet industry can be a gateway to success for businesses of all shapes and sizes.



When people think of key players in the pet industry, they often think of the big-box stores, specialty chains and pet superstores. As these businesses continue to thrive, they play an integral role in the pet care community, maximizing convenience and affordability for consumers. Despite the success of pet-store chains and other large players, however, there is still plenty of room for the industry’s next generation of small businesses and entrepreneurs. Today, we’re seeing more growing business enterprises enter the market than ever before, ultimately illustrating that the pet industry is a gateway for businesses of all sizes.


The American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) current membership makeup reflects the increase of small business within the pet industry. Among our more than 1,300 total members, over 700 domestic and international members report annual sales of $500,000 or less. Additionally, over half of the more than 300 new members that joined in 2019 were similarly sized.


Just like their large-scale counterparts, individuals from small businesses, startup companies and entrepreneurs are eager to learn, network and put themselves in front of new audiences. At Global Pet Expo this year, we welcomed nearly 300 first-time exhibitors—an 8 percent increase over 2018. Also, during the show, we had the opportunity to hear from five impressive startup finalists for Purina’s Pet Care Innovation Prize. From incorporating cutting-edge ingredients to streamlining veterinary care, this year’s finalists took an innovative approach to offer pets and pet owners new solutions in feeding, treating, caring for and interacting with their pets. We look forward to seeing how startup companies continue to advance the pet industry, giving pets and people a better life together through the use of groundbreaking technology and advanced concepts.    


When it comes to getting these businesses in front of the right audiences, we take pride in the many opportunities available to APPA members through their membership. At this year’s Global Pet Expo, our exhibitors had a chance to conduct business with 962 domestic independent and single-unit retailers, in addition to the 132 international independent and single-unit retailers who attended. We’ve enjoyed hearing about the many budding business opportunities that have resulted from these show floor encounters.    


Another misconception is that brick-and-mortar pet stores are a thing of the past. This statement couldn’t be further from the truth, as retailer data shows that there are still thousands of brick-and-mortar stores located all over the country. APPA recently conducted a study to gain a better understanding of the number of pet product retailers in the U.S.  This comprehensive analysis shows a combined total of 10,018 stores—3,472 of which are independently owned. Significantly, more than 10 percent of these independent owners had two or more stores. This data serves as an important benchmark to assess the constantly evolving retail landscape and will help us to evaluate future trends.


With whom are independent pet retailers experiencing the most success? According to the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, fish, small animal and reptile owners are more likely to shop at an independent or local pet specialty store, compared to other pet owners. Furthermore, the survey shows that nearly half of all pet owners have visited an independent pet store in the last year. The data also shows that, on average, dog owners visit their neighborhood pet store nearly four times a year, while reptile owners make approximately six yearly visits.


In summary, what this data tells us is that the pet owners still value the personal touch and neighborhood feel of independent retailers. Locally-owned office supply retailers and pharmacies have virtually disappeared from the retail landscape. But independent pet retailers have proven to be resilient in the face of fierce competition.   


Consumers today have a variety of shopping options that fit the demands of their busy lifestyles and cater to their pet’s unique needs. While some consumers prefer the affordability and convenience of shopping online or at their nearest chain, others prefer supporting their local independent pet store that provides individual service or carries their pet’s favorite brand of treats or chew toys. Providing consumers with a wide variety of retail options is good for pet product manufacturers, distributors and retailers, and for pet parents caring for their finned, feathered or furred friends that enrich their lives every day.  PB


Steve King is CEO of the American Pet Products Association (americanpetproducts.org).


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