Where Consumers Shop for Pet Care

January 2021

As 2020 proved positive for pet care, COVID-19 propelled e-commerce to become, for the first time, the largest pet care retail format globally. With online shopping rapidly evolving to offer more products, pack formats and prices and new delivery options, physical channels have to adapt. As well as investing in a digital presence, drawing pet owners back in store will prove crucial; be it by expanding a pet product offering for grocery retailers or widening into pet services for pet specialists.

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Key Findings

Global pet care thrives amid novel COVID-19 conditions

Global pet care demand has proved more than resilient in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic began to redefine lifestyles, market conditions and retailing. As the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing measures forced people to be largely confined to their homes, more companionship and bonding was sought with pets. An accelerated pet humanisation trend and surge in pet adoptions led to a globally positive year for the industry.

Pandemic propels e-commerce to top position in pet care retail

The pandemic caused major channel shifts in 2020; primarily accelerating the migration of pet care retail sales from physical to digital stores. For the first time, e-commerce became the largest pet care channel as pet owners minimised their physical shopping trips. These changes will reshape retailing to 2025, with stores having to draw customers back in and newer ways of engaging with consumers online emerging such as via social commerce and livestreaming.

Grocery retailers favoured over specialists

Amid reduced mobility, supermarkets and discounters enabled all-in-one grocery trips including most pet care products; deemed essential. Pet speciality stores and vet clinics were avoided, in some cases closed. Pet superstores declined most noticeably in North America while pet shops had their biggest setback in Latin America and Asia where they are significant.

Going omnichannel has become a necessity

Grocery retailers and pet specialists can no longer ignore pet care online shopping. Investing in digital presence and offering, such as Petco’s same-day delivery, will be key to standing out in an increasingly competitive environment. Conversely, developing the physical shopping experience for an online player can cement awareness, trust and loyalty among pet owners.

Pet care needs to be sold as a comprehensive service

A key trait of future pet care retail is a wholesome approach to engaging with pet owners. The pandemic has rendered the accessibility of health treatment and other services such as pet sitting, training or dog walking even more key to pet owners. Propositions such as Chewy’s telehealth service for regular customers in the US or dog walking by Petlove in Brazil will increasingly appeal to pet owners for their convenience and help customer retention.


Key findings

Industry Snapshot

COVID-19-related isolation is a boon to pet care in 2020
Pet food booms as an essential; accessories rise amid pet humanisation
Growth across regions but developing markets key to future expansion

Impact of Coronavirus (Covid-19)

Pet care shows resilience as COVID-19 jolts macro-environment
Enduring supply chain disruptions to put pressure on price point
Greater isolation and anxiety to boost pet ownership and product sales
COVID-19 propels e-commerce in seismic channel shifts

Channel Shifts

Supermarkets are spared, pet speciality suffers as e-commerce rises
North America and China capitalise on robust e-commerce foundations
Southeast Asian pet owners take on digital orders and home delivery

Store-based Channels

Large retail formats dominate store-based pet care retail landscape
Proximity and versatility of supermarkets valued in 2020
Pet speciality outlets need to draw traffic back by expanding their services
US pet superstores top speciality retail, but European players on the rise
Supermarkets and discounters favoured among COVID-19
Top grocery chains play the specialist card in US, the value card in Europe
Private label (not so) silently gaining credibility in pet care
Emerging but visible private label presence in developing markets
Value propositions can aid transition from scraps to prepared pet food

Non-store Channels

Non-physical channels a growing feature of pet care retail
Major investments in e-commerce capabilities help the channel soar
E-commerce became number one pet care retail channel in 2020
Pet care sales shift from superstores to online
US tops absolute e-commerce growth, but Latin America shows promise
Pet care e-commerce in the US: Omnichannel to become a standard
Pet care e-commerce in Brazil: online giants take pet service to next level
Pet care e-commerce in China: social commerce shows its true potential
DTC and subscription boxes: from digital to physical retail?

Future Developments

Pet care to sustain value growth to 2025 but price point to matter more
P et shops vital in developing markets; large grocery formats key in the US
Key recommendations


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