Online Pet Product Sales Escalate

Private-label and natural items could help veterinary practices snare a greater share of product purchases.

Compared with most pet product retailers, veterinary practices are at a disadvantage when it comes to display space.

Ken Niedziela

Internet sales of pet products hit $1.8 billion in 2014 and will continue growing by 10 to 15 percent a year at the expense of veterinarians and brick-and-mortar retailers that lack an online presence, according to a Packaged Facts report.

Online sales comprise only 4 percent of what the Rockville, Md., market research firm estimates is a $44 billion U.S. market for pet food, medications, toys and other goods. But the Internet’s share of annual pet product sales is certain to rise as more owners tap in, Packaged Facts stated.

In fact, 30 percent of pet owners surveyed last year agreed with the statement, “I am buying pet products online more than I used to,” an increase from 18 percent in 2012.

Offering private-label products is one way veterinarians and other retailers could improve sales, Packaged Facts stated in the report “Pet Product Retailing in the U.S.”

Forty-two percent of pet product buyers think store brands are often as good as national brand-name products, the firm noted.

Stocking natural or organic pet food is another possible way to capture revenue at veterinary practices. Packaged Facts called the issue of pet food recalls and safety “high in the public consciousness.”

“Pet owners who purchase natural products are more likely than pet owners in general to agree that natural/organic pet foods are safer than regular pet foods,” the report stated.

Among other findings in the report:

  • Veterinarians sell an estimated $5.3 billion to $6.4 billion worth of pet products, the bulk of which are prescription and over-the-counter medications. “Most of the balance of veterinary sales of pet products are premium foods, including medical diets,” the report noted.
  • 41 percent of pet product buyers use the Internet to learn about pet care services.
  • 39 percent use the Internet to help choose pet food.
  • More than 5 million dog or cat owners buy pet products online, up from 3 million in 2010. A recent report from the American Pet Products Association estimated the number of pet-owning households in the United States at 79.7 million.
  • Mass retailers PetSmart, Walmart and Petco enjoy the lion’s share of pet product sales. Among pet owners loyal to one main channel, PetSmart lures 21 percent of them, Walmart 20 percent and Petco 10 percent.
  • 5 percent of pet product buyers pledge allegiance to their veterinarian when it comes to purchases.
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