Pets Feel the Bite of Recession

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The Pert Group and Brakke Consulting find fewer pet owners going to the vet; cat owners decrease spending 20 percent in three basic pet care categories

“Dogs and cats are feeling the bite of the recession as pet owners put a leash on pet care expenses."

A survey of 1,200 dog and cat owners by The Pert Group and Brakke Consulting found veterinarians continue to be key influencers and a primary channel for pet products. But, changes in consumer behavior and potential legislation could erode their role.

The study showed dog and cat owners rely on veterinarians as their primary channel for pet products, including flea and tick control, heartworm prevention, joint health, pain management and therapeutic food.

But, survey respondents said they visited the veterinarian nearly 20 percent less in 2011 than they did in 2007 – if they went at all. In 2011, 77 percent of survey respondents said they took their dog or cat to the veterinarian, compared to 88 percent in 2007, when the study was first conducted.

“Dogs and cats are feeling the bite of the recession as pet owners put a leash on pet care expenses,” said Susan Spaulding, executive vice president and principal at The Pert Group. “The recession has not only decreased what consumers spend on their own health,* but what they spend at the veterinarian.”

Spending by cat owners who had not taken their pet to the veterinarian in the last year was down across multiple categories. Lapsed cat owners said they spent 28 percent less on heartworm prevention, 23 percent less on dental products and 20 percent less on flea and tick control compared to 2007.

Legislation, spending cuts threaten veterinarians’ role as channel leader

Pending legislation could erode even more of what pet owners spend at the vet. Under the Fairness to Pet Owners Act, veterinarians would be required to write prescriptions whether or not they actually dispense the medication. Traditional pharmacies would be able to fill scripts, creating additional competition. A majority of respondents indicated that they would fill those prescriptions outside the veterinary channel, at least some of the time.

The internet and pet super stores continue to gain share in several product categories due to lower costs, variety and convenience.

“Pet owners confirmed that veterinarians and their staffs are key sources of education and highly influential in product choice. Veterinarians could capitalize on their client relationships to compete more effectively with the growing internet and pet super store channels,” said John Volk, senior consultant at Brakke Consulting. “Online ads and in-store displays can’t compete with one-on-one interaction and expertise.”

The study included surveys with 1,200 dog and cat owners and was conducted in November 2011.

To subscribe to the Pet Owner Channel Use Study, contact Brakke Consulting, (972) 243-4033, jvolk(at)brakkeconsulting(dot)com or The Pert Group, (816) 448-3046, marissa(dot)vidler(at)thepertgroup(dot)com.

*http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/health/policy/health-spending-held-down-by-recession.html
About The Pert Group
The Pert Group is a research-based consulting firm headquartered in Farmington, Conn., with offices in Stamford, Conn., Kansas City, Mo., Pittsburgh, Penn. and London. Established in 1978, the company integrates financial, attitudinal and behavioral information to bring clarity to business, brand and marketing decision making. Providing comprehensive decision support in the areas of Innovation, Positioning and Performance, The Pert Group facilitates growth strategies and improves business outcomes for local, national and international clients. The Pert Group is a long-standing member of the Council of American Survey Research Organizations (CASRO) and the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR). For more information, visit thepertgroup.com.

About Brakke Consulting

Brakke Consulting, Inc. is the leading management consulting firm specializing in the animal health, nutrition and veterinary care markets. Brakke provides a variety of services, including market intelligence; management consulting; merger acquisition and licensing; executive search; and veterinary practice management. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, the firm also has offices in Chicago, Kansas City, St. Louis and Omaha; plus Osaka, Japan and Sydney, Australia.

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Cheri Tabel
The Pert Group
(816) 842-0020 1357
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