Pet Industry Forecast to Take 17% Hit in 2020 from Coronavirus

Consumers focusing on pet food over pet services
A puppy playing with a toy

The restaurant, travel and tourism industries aren’t the only ones taking a hit because of the coronavirus pandemic. New forecasts project that the pet market may also experience a major downturn.

Before the spread of COVID-19, the pet market — which includes pet products and services — was expected to grow 5% in 2020, according to market research firm Packaged Facts as of late March. Now, Packaged Facts estimates that sales of pet products and services will fall by 17% this year. In terms of dollars, that translates to a drop from $95 billion in sales in 2019 to $78.5 billion in sales in 2020.

Pet boarding services face deepest decline

Pet service sales that aren’t medical-related are expected to take the biggest hit, with a projected year-over-year drop of 47%. One of the biggest reasons for this is the decreased need for pet boarding services, since the COVID-19 outbreak has led to a drop in leisure and business travel. Other pet-related sales expected to fall in 2020 include:

  • Veterinary services by 30%
  • Non-food pet supplies by 23%

With many consumers focusing on necessities during the pandemic, sales of pet food and treats are expected to continue to grow, though at a slower pace. Packaged Facts projects the pet food and treats market to grow 4% in 2020, down from the 6% growth estimate ahead of the pandemic.

A glimmer of hope for pet retailers

While pet owners will continue to buy food for their pets, Packaged Facts expects that some consumers may try to save money by buying store or value brands, a trend that was seen during the Great Recession.

However, the news isn’t all doom and gloom for pet-related businesses. Researchers expect the pet market to rebound — at least partially in 2021 — due to the industry’s strength.

Online retailers may also see a boost during this time as consumers avoid shopping in brick-and-mortar stores during the pandemic. Packaged Facts also forecasts that the online shopping gains may be long-lasting:

  • 24% of pet product sales were expected to be made online in 2020 before the pandemic; now, 31% are forecast to be made online this year
  • 27% of pet product sales were expected to be made online by 2024 before the pandemic; now, 35% are forecast to be made online by that time

If you’re a pet owner and are concerned about money during the pandemic, it makes sense to pare down your budget to focus on pet necessities rather than other pet-related products and services. Once the crisis has passed, you can revisit your budget and adjust it accordingly.

Packaged Facts’ methodology

To determine its projections, Packaged Facts looked to multiple data sources — including surveys it had conducted of adult pet owners between February 2019 and March 2020 — to gain insight into their purchasing habits and thoughts about pet products and services.

It also used interviews with pet market experts, data from business and trade publications, and market data — such as sales figures, pet company revenues and consumer patterns — to come up with its forecast. The projections were based on the coronavirus situation as of late March 2020.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.