March 31, 2021

Analysis: The Purchasing Patterns of Pet Owners

By Pattern Data Science / Amazon, Ecommerce Trends, Pet Supplies

Americans are serious when it comes to their pets. According to a recent survey by the American Pet Products Association, approximately 67% of U.S. households own at least one pet—that’s 84.9 million homes!

The number of pet-owning Americans has been steadily increasing over the years. In 1988, the first year the same survey was conducted, 56% of U.S. households owned a pet. Of course, the more pet owners there are, the more demand there is for pet supplies.

To celebrate National Pet Day, and because we’re always eager to uncover new ecommerce trends, we wanted to do a deep dive into the online sales for pet supplies: When do people do the most online shopping for pet toys? When are people most likely to buy clothes for their pets? What about pet food? And did COVID-19 change the way people shopped for pet supplies online?

To find out the answers to these questions, our data science team analyzed market demand for pet supplies on Amazon for 2019 and 2020.

When is market demand highest for pet toys?

First, let’s examine pet toys as a combined category (for all pets: from dogs to cats, fish to birds, and more).

Demand started out flat in early 2020 before dipping slightly in the early days of the pandemic. It wasn’t long into lockdown, though, that demand for pet toys rebounded to pre-pandemic levels where it remained consistent throughout the summer and fall.

Demand then more than doubles during the peak holiday shopping season. Pets across America, it seems, are absolutely showered with gifts during the holidays.

You can see that after the holidays, pet toy demand in January and February of 2021 were ahead of last year, suggesting perhaps that a lot of people thought quarantine was the perfect time to get a new pet last year.

Here’s what demand looks like when we split out the top 4 types of pet categories in our analysis:

Dogs are the most popular pet in the U.S., so it comes as no surprise to see that demand for dog toys on Amazon far exceeds any other type of pet. So to account for the sheer popularity of dogs, we next compared how demand changed for each type of pet toy from week to week.

Taking this view you can see that demand for dog toys, cat toys, and fish toys all categories nearly double during the peak holiday shopping season, while bird toy sales increased by only 30% in the same timeframe.

Sales for all types of pet toys also experienced a similar dip and subsequent rebound in the early days of the pandemic, although cat toys bounced back somewhat slower than the rest.

When is market demand highest for pet food?

Demand for pet toys followed a pretty unsurprising trend, with a major emphasis on the holiday shopping season. But what about pet food? Is there a certain time of year where pet owners tend to stock up?

Let’s find out.

Here’s where the impact of COVID-19 becomes undeniable. Started the year consistent, then demand absolutely skyrocketed in early March as pet owners dealt with empty shelves at their local stores and prepared for an uncertain future.

By the end of April, however, demand had fallen to below pre-pandemic levels—perhaps due in part to pet owners having built up a stockpile in the months prior.

Interestingly, demand for pet food drops to its lowest point during the holidays. This may be due to pet owners holding off on buying new food to save money for gift giving. Or, perhaps pet owners were more willing to purchase pet food at brick-and-mortar retail stores while shopping for other holiday goods. The true cause remains a 2020 mystery.

Now let’s compare demand for pet food among the top four types of pets.

Demand for dog and cat food runs even farther ahead of fish and birds than demand for toys. So once again, we’ll compare how demand changed throughout the year.

Demand for dog and cat food both skyrocketed in the early days of the pandemic, increasing by over 130% during the week of March 15th. Fish and bird food also shot up, though not as dramatically, with bird food actually experiencing the longest sustained increase.

Interestingly, demand for all four types of pet food hit their low point during the holidays.

When is market demand highest for pet clothes?

Last, but certainly not least, we’re going to examine pet clothes. Because who doesn’t love seeing a dog in a bowtie or a cat in a halloween costume?

Let’s start by seeing when demand for pet clothes is highest among all categories:

The clear winner here is Halloween, where demand surges by 200% to over 370% between the weeks of September 27th through October 25th. That’s a lot of pet Halloween costumes!

Christmas appears to drive a slight increase in demand, and there’s a slight uptick in late February (before a steep pandemic-driven decline), but everything pales in comparison to Halloween.

Let’s see how the different pet types stack up:

When it comes to demand for pet Halloween costumes, dogs once again completely outrank the other pets we examined. Things are a lot closer during the rest of the year, though, with cat clothing actually outranking dog clothing during the week of February 23rd.

Here’s how demand changed throughout the year:

Demand for dog clothing spikes at +472% vs average during the week of October 18th, outpacing cat and bird clothing’s still-impressive increases of 380% and 377%, respectively.

A lesson for brands

Pet supplies are popular year-round, but our data shows that different types of pet supplies hit their peak in demand at different times of the year than others.

Understanding the factors that influence consumer behavior can help brands better understand how to forecast demand for their products on online marketplaces, and even inform product design and marketing strategy.

To stay up to date on consumer behavior and ecommerce news, info, and trend analyses, be sure to subscribe to Pattern Insights on the right.

And, if you’d like to learn more about how you can best leverage our data to help your brand win online, holiday or not, schedule a demo today.

More Resources
Amazon MPS Benchmark: Top Pet Supplies Brands 2021
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Amazon MPS Benchmark: Hiking Shoe Brands 2021
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