The Most Important Pet Product Categories in 2019
Despite the fact that they are facing an unprecedented level of online competition, many brick-and-mortar pet stores have actually enjoyed impressive growth over the past year. But traditional pet retailers' ability to maintain this positive momentum through 2019 is far from certain and will depend on their ability to not only provide a shopping experience that cannot be duplicated on the internet, but also identify the types of products that will set them apart from online outlets and drive shoppers into their aisles. With this in mind, Pet Business recently surveyed both brick-and-mortar and online retailers about which product categories they expect to drive growth for their businesses in the year ahead, and the results were quite interesting.
As you can see in the graph above, there are some similarities in the product categories that traditional and online retailers will be banking on in 2019, but there are also significant differences. For example, while nearly 40 percent of brick-and-mortar retailers pointed to both freeze-dried and frozen/refrigerated raw foods as expected growth drivers, neither category ranked highly with internet-based businesses. The fact that freeze-dried foods actually scored lower with online retailers makes me believe that it's their inability to educate customers about what is still an emerging trend that makes this category difficult for them to negotiate successfully. The same can be said of CBD products. While internet retailers are more optimistic about the potential that this relatively new product category holds for their businesses, it's nowhere near the same level of optimism as their brick-and-mortar competitors.
Conversely, while internet outlets are still quite bullish on "natural/eco-friendly products," the brick-and-mortar set has somewhat cooled on these categories as potential catalysts for growth. This becomes evident when you consider that just five years ago, the percentage of pet stores that viewed these products as a likely growth category (40 percent) was nearly double what it is today (21 percent). That is not to say that natural and eco-friendly pet fare is not important in traditional retail settings—in fact, they remain vital elements of a well-rounded selection. Rather, I view this as an indication that brick-and-mortar retailers have come to realize that products touting general terms such as "natural" and "eco-friendly" must now go further to qualify why they deserve such labels and appeal to pet owners.
Finally, areas where similarly high expectations can be found among both traditional and internet-based pet product retailers—even if they're not in lock step—include "Made in the USA" products, supplements, meal toppers and even private-label products. Clearly, these are categories in which we can expect to see strong competition between online and brick-and-mortar businesses, as both sides have targeted them for growth. How this plays out is anyone's guess, but I think we can all expect to see the results reflected in next year's survey.