Consumer Alert: Pet retail becomes booming industry

Americans spent nearly $70 billion on their animals in 2017, according to the American Pet Products Association.

Ace Ramirez is turning another year wiser and his family has plans to celebrate.

“Well, it's my dog’s birthday today, so I'm actually picking up his birthday cake,” Yimber Ramirez said Wednesday while walking into Jack’s Snacks, a dog bakery in Warwick.

The Ramirez family is part of a growing number of Americans who are willing to splurge on their pets.

“How we value that dog and where we're spending money has somewhat shifted,” said Kristen Regine, who is a marketing professor at Johnson and Wales.

Regine said during the last few years, pet retail has transformed into a booming industry. Americans spent nearly $70 billion on their animals in 2017, according to the American Pet Products Association. That’s almost double what Americans were spending 10 years earlier.

“In all the reports that I looked at, the industry is expected to have strong growth over the next five years,” said Regine.

Regine attributes the growth to a shift in the way Americans view pets. These days, we're not pet owners -- we're pet parents. Our dogs and cats are members of our family and we open our wallets a bit wider for family.

“I remember my first farmer’s market at Goddard Park, and people actually walking by and laughing when they found out what I was doing,” said Marni MacLean, who is the owner of Jack's Snacks.

MacLean said there was plenty of skepticism when she started baking dog treats in 2004.

Fourteen years later: no one bats an eyelash. Now, MacLean’s got her own shop and a growing customer base.

“We've been here since 2014 and every year the sales increase,” said MacLean. “People treat their dogs like family, and definitely our customers treat their dogs and cats like they're part of the family.”

Ramirez says he’s happy to splurge on his family member, Ace.

“Every time you see your dog happy, it makes you a little bit happier,” said Ramirez. “So, it's not a big thing to spend a little bit extra on your dog.”

Subscription-based online pet retail companies are growing rapidly, as well.

BarkBox boasts more than a half-million subscribers, with a staggering 95 percent retention rate.

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