The Evolving Pet Boutique
By Melissa Breau
August 13, 2010

While doing research for an article on pet boutiques, which will appear in the September issue of Pet Business, I spoke with industry members who have been working with or in boutiques for a number of years now and have had an opportunity to watch the category as it’s both grown and changed. I’ve been with Pet Business for just about two years, and even over that short time, I’ve seen enormous changes take place within the boutique segment.

When the word “boutique” first emerged in the pet world, it was synonymous with pet apparel and extremely high-end products. Then home décor items entered the mix, since sophisticated pet owners didn’t just want their pet to look good –they wanted their pet care accessories to look good too. Humanization trends meant those pet parents wanted their fuzzy children to have everything they had given to their pets’ two-legged siblings. Pets had become part of the family.

This led to high-end carriers, bowls, beds and scratching posts all of which were considered “boutique.” It became about more than just stylish accessories; the category grew by leaps and bounds.

And then economy began to falter. It became about more than just looking good – pet owners wanted to know that their hard-earned dollars were going to give them good-looking products that were also high-quality and would last.

In addition, “Go Green” became the mantra of the day; customers wanted products that were all natural, sustainably made and recyclable. In the pet market many of these products, which cost a little more to make and buy, settled into the boutique category.

What this all means is that a snapshot of the industry today looks very different than it did even just a couple of years ago. The category continues to grow and morph–among upcoming trends that interviewees indentified were growth in interactive toys, holistic items like supplements and raw food, and growth particularly in the puppy and senior pet categories, which are “high-need” times in a pet’s life.

What trends are you seeing? Email comments or ideas to: mbreau@petbusiness.com.