Pawsecco, anyone? Millennials splurge on pampered pets

Cash-rich, time-poor under-40s are driving up sales of pyjamas and birthday cakes

They spend their days lazing about on memory foam mattresses, slurping non-alcoholic wine and wearing gadgets that track how much exercise they do. This is not a typical day in the life of a young person – but rather, in that of their beloved dog or cat.

Cash-rich, time-poor millennials, often living alone or without children, are fuelling a spending boom on pets, according to data research company Mintel. It is predicting a 25% increase over the next five years on the estimated £1.7bn owners will spend on their domestic animals in 2018.

This spending will go on dog walking, pet sitting and grooming services, as well as the purchase of human-quality pet food and “niche” items such as Christmas jumpers, matching pyjamas, Pawsecco (non-alcoholic “wine”) and birthday cakes made from meat and cereal.

“Pets today are seen as substitute children, particularly by lonely, hard-working millennials and young couples who cannot afford to have kids yet,” said Cary Cooper, professor of organisational psychology and health at Manchester Business School.

For young people who struggle to find time for human relationships, a pet is “someone to come home to, cuddle up with and love”, he said, with the added benefit that they help owners build social connections with other pet lovers. Similarly, he suggested, would-be parents were using pets to test how they coped with the responsibility of caring for a dependent. Mintel found millennials aged 19 to 38 are the most prepared to lavish money on their pets, with just over half saying they would cut back on spending on themselves before their pets. Two out of five would fork out as much on a gift for their pets at Christmas as they would on a gift for a friend, and a third of 19- to 28-year-olds would buy matching outfits for themselves and their pets. Fewer than one in 10 pet owners aged 39 to 53 find this idea attractive.

“Everyone wants their pets to be happy and healthy, but millennials want more human products for their pets,” said Mintel retail analyst Chana Baram. “Millennials see their pets as an extension of themselves.” A big future growth area is health and fitness. “Just as people are more concerned about keeping healthy nowadays, they feel the same concerns about their pets,” said Baram. She predicts that exercise-tracking collars may become popular in the future, along with boxes of human-grade quality homecooked pet food, individually tailored to each pet and delivered to the owner’s door via online subscription services.

Pets’ mental health is also a growing concern: hi-tech gadgets that allow lonely pets to press a button and call their owner on a videophone (who can then reward their pet remotely with a treat) already exist. Around two-thirds of full-time workers own a pet and Mintel estimates the market for pet-care services which provide day care, pampering and health check-ups will see a 34% increase by 2023.

Next weekend, the national pet show in Birmingham will welcome 25,000 people looking to buy the latest new pet products, including dog beer, satirical chew toys that look like Boris Johnson and Theresa May, ski gear for dogs, cage decor for rodents and a £690 guinea pig house. Nearly half of those attending are expected to be millennials.

Pet Hates Toys
Theresa May chew toy by Pet Hates Toys. Photograph: PR

Nickie Charles, a sociology professor at the University of Warwick who has studied people’s relationships with their pets, thinks millennials are more susceptible to such products because they are less likely than older pet owners to have children.

“People are incredibly emotionally attached to their pets nowadays – and it’s a very intimate, close relationship,” she said. “They see their pets as family members, buy them presents and send cards from their pets to other members of their family. With millennials, this attachment feeds their typical consumption patterns. Celebrity culture is driving demand and that particularly influences young people more than other age groups.”


Donna Ferguson

The GuardianTramp

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