Retail Channel Monthly $ Update – February Final & March Advance

The pandemic started in March 2020. Since then, in the Retail sector, we have seen both record drops and record highs. The market has generally recovered but now we are being hit by extreme inflation. This can affect retail sales, so we’ll continue to track the retail market with data from two reports provided by the Census Bureau and factor in the CPI from US BLS.

The Census Bureau Reports are the Monthly and the Advance Retail Sales Reports. Both are derived from sales data gathered from retailers across the U.S. and are published monthly at the same time. The Advance Report has a smaller sample size so it can be published quickly – about 2 weeks after month end. The Monthly Final Report includes data from all respondents, so it takes longer to compile the data – about 6 weeks. Although the sample size for the Advance report is smaller, the results over the years have proven it to be statistically accurate with the final monthly reports. The biggest difference is that the full sample in the Final report allows us to “drill” a little deeper into the retail channels.

We begin with the Final Report for February and then move to the Advance Report for March.  We’ll compare 2022 to 2021, 2020 and 2019. We will show both the actual and the “real” change in $ as we factor inflation into the data.

Both reports include the following:

  • Total Retail, Restaurants, Auto, Gas Stations and Relevant Retail (removing Restaurants, Auto and Gas)
  • Individual Channel Data – This will be more detailed in the “Final” reports, and we fill focus on Pet Relevant Channels

The information will be presented in detailed charts to facilitate visual comparison between groups/channels of:

  • Current Month change – % & $ vs previous month
  • Current Month change – % & $ vs same month in 2021, 2020 and 2019.
  • Current YTD change – % & $ vs 2021, 2020 and 2019
  • Monthly and Year To Date $ will also be shown for each group/channel

First, the February Final. February is the normal Retail $ bottom for the year. The drop from January was minor and only happened in Relevant Retail but it drove Total Retail down. Sales vs 2021 remain strong with double digit increases in both monthly and YTD for all groups. Here are the major retail groups. (All $ are Actual, Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The February Final is $2.6B more than the Advance Report. All groups were up. Restaurants: +$0.6B; Auto: +$0.7B; Gas Stations: +$0.4B; Relevant Retail: +$0.9B. The normal drop in retail sales from January only happened in Relevant Retail and is less than in past years. The late recovery for Restaurants and Gas Stations is still surging. All groups have now been positive vs past years for 9 consecutive months. Now, let’s look at the “Real” February lift vs 2021, factoring in inflation. Here are the numbers:

  • Total Retail: National CPI: 7.9%, YTD: 7.7%; Sales Feb: +18.2% , Real: 10.3% (56.6%); YTD: 15.7%, Real: 8.0% (51.0%)
  • Restaurants: Food away from home CPI: 6.8%; YTD: 6.4%; Sales Feb: 34.3%, Real: 27.5% (80.2%); YTD: 29.1%, Real: 22.7% (78.0%)
  • Auto: New & Used Vehicles CPI: 23.5%, YTD: 23.1%; Sales Feb: 18.3%, Real: -5.2%; YTD: 15.7%, Real: -7.4% 
  • Gas Stations: Gasoline CPI: 38.0%, YTD: 40.0%; Sales Feb: 37.7%, Real: -0.3%; YTD: 35.4%, Real: -4.6%
  • Relevant Rtl: National CPI: 7.9%, YTD: 7.7%; Sales Feb: 13.1%, Real: 5.2% (46.8%); YTD: 11.2%, Real: 3.5% (31.3%)

Inflation is becoming a big factor in all but Restaurants.

Now, let’s see how some Key Pet Relevant channels did in February.

Overall – You see the normal February drop as 7 of 11 were down vs January. However, only one channel, Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores is down in any other measurement. Evidence of a strong recovery by Relevant Retail.

  • Building Material Stores – Their amazing lift has slowed in the winter months. Most of the increase from 2019 for both Home Ctr/Hdwe and Farm Stores came from the 20>21 lift. Home Ctr/Hdwe $ are starting to grow again but it’s still a little early in the year for the Farm Stores big lift. The February and YTD inflation rate for Tools, Hdwe, Outdoor Equip/Supp were both 10.7%. That makes the February numbers:
    • Home Ctr/Hdwe Feb: +16.0%, Real: +5.3%;YTD: +13.3%, Real: +2.6%
    • Farm Stores: Feb: +4.5%, Real:-6.2%; YTD: +2.2%, Real: -8.5% A big inflation impact!
  • Food & Drug – Both channels are truly essential. Except for the food binge buying in the pandemic, they tend to have smaller fluctuations in $. Both had big drops from January but have had regular growth since 2019. Supermarkets’ growth has been stronger due to more families choosing to cook at home. Inflation for Food at Home was Feb: 8.6%, YTD: 8.0%. Drug Inflation (Rx & OTC): Feb: 2.5%. YTD: 1.9%. Growth was:
    • Supermarkets Feb: +8.4%, Real: -0.2%; YTD: +8.1, Real: +0.1% Grocery inflation had a big impact.
    • Drug Stores Feb: +9.1%, Real: +6.6%; YTD: +9.0%, Real: +7.1% 
  • Sporting Goods Stores – Like Hardware/Farm stores, they benefited from the pandemic in that consumers turned to self-entertainment, especially sports & outdoor activities. Sales are up after a big drop in January, so they are positive in all measurements. The high demand has pushed the inflation rate for Sporting Goods to Feb: 7.1%. YTD: 7.6%. Sales growth was: Feb: +11.0%, Real: +3.9%; YTD: +5.4%, Real: -2.2%. Inflation kept real YTD sales negative.
  • Gen Mdse Stores – $ in all channels fell from January but all were up from 2021. SuperCtrs/Clubs have a higher % of groceries which results in more frequent visits and generally higher growth numbers. Disc. Dept Stores were struggling before COVID but had a strong 2021. Using the overall CPI of 7.9%, YTD: 7.7%, sales growth was:
    • SupCtr/Club Feb: 11.3%, Real: +3.4%; YTD: +7.8%, Real: 0.1%
    • $/Value Strs Feb: +7.7%, Real: -0.2%; YTD: +3.5%, Real: -4.2% $ Stores focus on price, so it’s no surprise that inflation hit them hard.
    • Disc. Dept. Strs Feb: +10.0%, Real: 2.1%; YTD: 5.7%, Real: -2.0%. 
  • Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores – Their recovery didn’t start until the spring of 2021, but they are still not there yet. Sales are up vs 2021, but every other measurement is negative. The available inflation number most appropriate for them is “limited” as it cuts out food, energy, shelter and used vehicles. Feb: 5.5%.YTD: 5.3%. Sales are Feb: +12.0%, Real: +6.5%; YTD: +7.2%, Real: +1.9%.
  • Internet/Mail Order – The sales growth of the “hero” of the Pandemic is slowing. With inflation at 7.9%, YTD: 7.6%. they were Feb: 14.2%, Real: 6.3%; YTD: +14.2%, Real: +6.6%. Their avg growth rate is 17.5%. Inflation widens the gap.
  • A/O Miscellaneous – This is a group of specialty retailers. Pet Stores are 22>24% of total $. In May 2020 they began their recovery which reached a record level by December 2021 as annual sales reached $100B for the first time. Using the 5.5%, YTD: 5.3% “limited” inflation, Sales were: Feb: +30.3%, Real: +24.8%; YTD: +26.5%, Real: +21.2%. By any measure and even factoring in high inflation, they are the percentage leader in 2022 growth. They are even beating the internet, which is to say the least, surprising.

There is no doubt that high inflation is an important factor in Retail. In actual $, all 11 channels increased monthly & YTD sales over 2021. However, when you factor in inflation, the number with any “real” growth falls to 8 monthly and 7 YTD. Until things change, inflation will be a big part of retail sales discussions. Now, the Advance numbers for March.

We have had memorable times since 2019. Some big negatives, including the 2 biggest monthly drops in history but a lot of positives in the Pandemic recovery. Total Retail reached $600B in a month for the first time and broke the $7 Trillion barrier in 2021.  Relevant Retail was also strong as annual sales reached $4T but in fact, all big groups set annual sales records in 2021. Now in late 2021 and continuing into 2022 radical inflation has entered the game. It’s not the biggest increase ever but it is the largest in 40 years. As we have learned in the past, this can first reduce the amount of product sold but not $ spent. However, if it continues, it can actually reduce consumer spending. This could reverse many gains.

Overall – The big change is that the monthly increase vs the previous year is much smaller than it has been. The still recovering Restaurants and Gas Stations are up double digits but Auto $ are actually down. Also, March 2020 was the start of the pandemic. March 2022 set a new record for the month. We have come a long way since those tough days.

Total Retail – Every month in 2022 has set a monthly sales record. March $ are $677B. History says that they should stay at or near that level until dipping slightly in September. March sales are up 7.0% over 2021. That’s significantly below the 9.6% average increase since 2019. The national inflation rate for March 2022 vs 2021 was 8.5%, even higher than February. YTD prices are up 8.0%. Let’s take a closer look at the sales numbers. March: +7.0%, Real: -1.5%; YTD: +12.4%, Real: +4.0% (32.3%).The amount sold in March was actually down from 2021 and only about 1/3 of YTD sales gain was real.

Restaurants – They were hit hard by the pandemic and didn’t truly start to recover until March 2021 with a $15B lift over February and an $18B increase over 2020. Sales in 7 of the last 8 months of 2021 exceeded $70B and 2021 was the biggest year in history, $821B. January sales fell from December but have turned up since then setting a new all-time monthly record of $78.3B in March. March sales are up an average of 5.9% since 2019 and the YTD average is 5.4%. The channel is becoming more normal. Inflation for Food away from home in March was 6.9%. YTD, it is 6.7%. Here is the growth. March: +20.2%, Real: +13.3% (65.8%); YTD: +25.7%, Real: +19.0% (73.9%) This is by far the best real performance of any group and significantly improves the Total Retail numbers.

Auto (Motor Vehicle & Parts Dealers) – This group actively worked to overcome the stay-at-home attitude with great deals and a lot of advertising. They finished 2020 up 1% vs 2019 and hit a record $1.54T in 2021. In January, sales fell but then turned up in February & March. However, March $ are down vs 2021, the only negative on the chart and a huge change from their average March growth rate of 9.7% since 2019. Their YTD growth rate since 2019 is 10.2%, due to double digit increases in January & February. The inflation rates for new & used vehicles, which account for the vast majority of the sales in this group, were Mar: +21.7%, YTD: +22.8%. Sales were: Mar: -1.0%, Real: -22.7%; YTD: +8.8%, Real: -14.0%. It is very likely that the drop in the actual $ in March is tied to extreme inflation.

Gas Stations – Gas Stations were also hit hard. If you stay home, you drive less and obviously need less gas. This group started recovery in March 2021 and reached a record $588B for the year. Sales fell in January and February then turned up in March. However, they have the biggest monthly and YTD increases vs 2021. Gasoline inflation is in all the headlines so let’s get right to the numbers. Gasoline inflation vs 2021 for March is 48.0% and YTD is 42.3% which generates the following. March: +37.9%, Real: -10.1%; YTD: +36.4%, Real: -5.9%. It’s a textbook example of the initial impact of inflation. Consumers are spending more but buying less, especially with the huge price lift in March.

Relevant Retail – Less Auto, Gas and Restaurants – This the “core” of U.S. retail and accounts for 60+% of Total Retail Spending. There are a variety of channels in this group, so they took a number of different paths through the pandemic. However, their only down month was April 2020. They finished 2020, up +7.1% and 2021 got even better as they reached a record $4.47T. They have led the way in Total Retail’s recovery which became widespread across the channels. In January and February sales fell then turned up in March. All 3 months set new records but the March lift from 2021 is less than half of their 9.4% average. Their YTD numbers are better, only slightly below their 9.0% average. Now, we’ll look at the impact of inflation. We’ll use the overall inflation rates: March: 8.5%, YTD: 8.0%. Sales growth was: March: +4.0%, Real: -4.5%; YTD: +8.5%, Real: +0.5% (5.9%). With the huge size of this group, these results are critically important. This is where Retail America shops. YTD sales are truly up only a miniscule 0.5% but the amount of products that consumers bought in March was actually 4.5% less than 2021. They just paid more. That’s not good.

The impact of inflation is truly beginning to Hit home. Auto and Gas Stations have no monthly or YTD real growth. Relevant Retail is really down for the month and basically flat YTD. Restaurants have the only positive real numbers. This adds up to a real monthly drop for Total Retail and a minor YTD increase. We are now in Phase II of inflation. Consumer spending increases but the amount bought declines. The Auto Group may actually be moving into Phase III, when consumers actually cut back on spending. If inflation continues, the situation will only get worse.

Now the March numbers for some key retail channels.

  • Relevant Retail: Mar: +4.0%, Real: -4.5%; YTD: +8.5%, Real: +0.5%. All channels were up vs the February “bottom” but 2 were down vs March 2021. It was a record month but you see the negative impact of inflation in the “real” numbers.
  • All Dept Stores – This group was struggling before COVID, and the pandemic hit them hard. They began to recover in March 2020, and they have continued to grow through March 2022. The most appropriate inflation rate to use for them is less Food, Energy, Shelter & used vehicles which are Mar: 5.8%, YTD: 5.5%. Their numbers are Mar: +3.3%, Real: -2.5%; YTD: +11.2%, Real: +5.7%. Their growth slowed in March and in “real” terms they actually lost ground due to inflation.
  • Club/SuprCtr/$ – They fueled a big part of the overall recovery because they focus on value which has broad consumer appeal. Inflation is a big factor in their current numbers as their lift has turned around, at least temporarily. Using the national CPI, Mar: +4.0%, Real: -4.5%, YTD: +6.0%, Real: -2.0%
  • Grocery – These stores are essential and depend on frequent purchases, so except for the binge buying in 2020, their changes are generally less pronounced. However, inflation has also hit Groceries, 10.0% in March and 8.7% YTD, the biggest increase since 1981 and produced negative real numbers Mar: +9.0%, Real = -1.0%; YTD: 8.5%, Real: -0.2%
  • Health/Drug Stores – At least the drug stores in this group are essential, but consumers visit far less frequently than Grocery stores. Most of their COVID ride has been rather calm. Using the CPI for Rx & OTC drugs: Mar: 2.7%, YTD: 2.2% their sales are: Mar: +0.9%, Real: -1.8%; YTD: +6.2%, Real: +4.0% Even with lower inflation, their real sales were down.
  • Clothing and Accessories – They were generally deemed nonessential and what you were wearing didn’t matter when you stayed home. That changed in March 2021 and consumers’ pent-up needs caused explosive growth which has continued through 2022. Apparel inflation is Mar: 6.8%, YTD: 6.2%. Their $ are Mar: 7.5%, Real: 0.7%; YTD: 16.7%, Real: 10.5%
  • Home Furnishings – They were also less impacted by COVID. Sales dipped Mar>May in 2020. Then as consumers’ focus turned to their homes, furniture became a priority. Inflation on Furniture is extremely high, 15.8% for March and 16.6% YTD. That causes a big turnaround in their numbers. Mar: +4.2%, Real: -11.6%; YTD: +5.5%, Real: -11.1%
  • Electronic & Appliances – Look at the graph. This channel has problems beyond the pandemic. Sales fell in Apr>May of 2020 and didn’t reach 2019 levels until March 2021. Their sales are down across the board vs 2021. We’ll use the “limited” CPI: Mar: 5.8%, YTD: 5.5%. Sales: Mar: -9.6%, Real: -15.4%; YTD: -4.0%, Real: -9.5%.
  • Building Material, Farm & Garden & Hardware –They truly benefited from the consumers’ focus on home. Their spring lift became almost year-round. A big lift from February but little vs 2021. The CPI for Hdwe & Outdoor is Mar: 10.8% YTD: 10.7%. Here are their sales: Mar: +1.8%, Real: -9.0%; YTD: +7.6%, Real: -3.1%. An Inflation generated drop.
  • Sporting Goods, Hobby and Book Stores – Consumers turned their attention to personal recreation and sales in Sporting Goods outlets took off. Book and Hobby Stores recovery was slower. A big increase from February but March Sales are down vs 2021. The product groups in these outlets have radically different CPIs so using the “limited” inflation version seems to be the best choice. Mar: -5.7%, Real: -11.5%; YTD: 1.6%, Real: -3.9%. Inflation again hits hard.
  • All Miscellaneous Stores – Pet Stores have been a key part of the strong and still growing recovery of this group. They finished 2020 +0.9% but sales took off in March 21, setting a new monthly record in December. The growth continues in 2022 as they are now #1 in March & YTD lifts. Since 2019, their March growth is #1 and YTD is 2nd to NonStore. The limited CPI seems right for them and generates strong numbers. Mar: +14.3%, Real: +8.5%; YTD: +18.9%, Real: +13.4%
  • NonStore Retailers – 90% of their volume comes from Internet/Mail Order/TV. The pandemic accelerated the online spending movement. They ended 2020 +21.4%. The growth continued in 2021 and in December monthly sales exceeded $100B for the 1st time and they broke the $1 Trillion barrier. Growth slowed markedly in March 2022. Using the national CPI, their sales are Mar: +2.6%, Real: -5.9%; YTD: +10.4%, Real: +2.4% Even the internet is not safe from inflation.

Note: Almost without exception, online sales by brick ‘n mortar retailers are recorded with their regular store sales.

Recap – The Retail recovery from the pandemic was largely driven by Relevant Retail. While the timing varied between channels, by the end of 2021 it had become very widespread. In late 2021 and now in 2022, a new challenge came to the forefront – extreme inflation. It isn’t the worst in history, but it is the biggest increase in prices in 40 years. Moreover, each month it is getting worse. On the surface, the impact is almost invisible. Sales in the total market and in the Relevant Retail group continue to grow. Admittedly, the growth rate has slowed in March, but sales are still up. In our summary of the big groups, we said that the market had entered phase II of strong inflation – spending grows but the amount purchased falls. The channels in the graph above illustrate this perfectly and show how widespread that it has become. 9 of 11 channels are up vs March 2021 and 10 are up YTD. However, when you factor in inflation, only 2 are up for March and 5 for YTD. Inflation is real and there are real and even worse consequences if it continues.

Petflation 2022 – March Update – Inflation Again Grows in All Segments

Inflation continues to make headlines. There have been year over year increases in the monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) larger than we have seen in decades. In March the CPI was up 8.5% vs 2021, the biggest increase since 1981. Food at Home (groceries) has a similar story. Prices were up 10% over 2021, the biggest increase and the only double-digit percentage increase in any month since 1981. As we have seen in recent years, even minor price fluctuations can affect consumer pet spending, especially in the more discretionary pet segments. With that in mind, we will continue to publish monthly reports to track petflation as it evolves in the marketplace.

Total Pet prices were 4.1% higher in December 2021 than in December 2020, while the overall CPI was up 7.0%. In March 2022, Total Petflation was up +7.5% vs 2021 and the overall CPI was +8.5%. You can see that the gap has significantly narrowed. In December the rate of Petflation was 58.5% of the national number. In March it was 88.2%. This and future reports will include:

  • A rolling 24 month tracking of the CPI for all pet segments and the national CPI. The base number will be pre-pandemic December 2019 in this and future reports, which will facilitate comparisons.
  • Monthly comparisons of 22 vs 21 which will include Pet Segments and relevant Human spending categories. Plus
    1. CPI change from the previous month
    2. Inflation changes for recent years (20>21, 19>20, 18>19)
    3. Total Inflation for the current month in 2022 vs 2019
    4. Average annual Year Over Year inflation rate from 2019 to 2022
  • YTD comparisons
    1. YTD numbers for the monthly comparisons #2>4 above

In our first graph we will track the monthly change in prices for the 24 months from March 2020 to March 2022. We will use December 2019 as a base number in this and future reports so we can track the progress from pre-pandemic times through an eventual recovery. Inflation is a complex issue. This chart is designed to give you a visual image of the flow of pricing. You can see the similarities and differences in patterns between segments and compare them to the overall U.S. CPI. The current numbers plus those from 12 and 24 months earlier are included as are the yr-end numbers for 2020 & 2021.This will give you some key waypoints for comparisons.

The pandemic began in March 2020. At that time, you see that inflation was not an issue. There are 2 distinctly different patterns between the 2 Services segments and the 2 Products segments. Although there are some ups and downs, Veterinary and Services prices generally inflated after mid-2020, a pattern similar to the overall CPI. Food and Supplies prices generally deflated until late 2021. After that time, inflation took off. In March the rate of increase over the prior month slowed for Services and Supplies but accelerated for Food and Veterinary. Here are some things to note:

  • U.S. CPI – The inflation rate was below 2% through 2020. It turned up in January 2021 and continued to grow stronger through March 2022. 88% of the overall 11.9% increase since 2019 occurred in the last 15 months.
  • Pet Food – Prices stayed generally below December 2019 levels from April 2020 to September 2021, when they turned up. There was a sharp increase in December. 86% of the 5.4% total has happened since November.
  • Pet Supplies – Remember that Supplies prices were high in December 2019 due to the added tariffs. They had a “deflated” roller coaster ride until mid-2021 when they returned to December 2019 prices and essentially stayed there until 2022 when they turned sharply up reaching a new all-time pricing high in January, beating the 2009 record. They have continued to set new price records in February and now March.
  • Pet Services – Normally inflation is about 2+%. Perhaps due to closures, prices increased at a lower rate in 2020. In 2021 consumer demand increased but there were fewer outlets. Prices increased strongly in 2021 with the biggest lift coming in January>April. Inflation got even stronger in 2022 but the rate slowed a little in March.
  • Veterinary – Inflation has always been something that you can count on in Veterinary Services. Prices began moving up in March 2020 and grew consistently through the 2021 recovery. Then a pricing surge began in December which pushed them past the overall CPI with total inflation since 2019 reaching +14.6%.
  • Total Pet – The blending of the segment patterns made the Pet Industry appear calm compared to the overall market. That ended in December 2021 as prices surged for all segments. In March, Food & Vet were the drivers.

Next, we’ll turn our attention to the Year over Year inflation rate change for the month of March and compare it to last month, last year and to previous years. We’ve added some human categories to put the pet numbers into perspective.

Overall, Prices vs 2021 were up 8.5% vs 2021 with the Grocery increase now hitting double digits. There are some small positives. Only 5 of 9 categories had price increases over 1% from last month. It was 6 in February. Plus, the price for Haircuts & Other Personal Services was up 4.6% vs 2021 but actually down from February. There is a little hope.

  • U.S. CPI – Prices are up 1.3% from February. The targeted inflation rate is less than 2%. In March, prices were up 8.5%, more than 4 times higher than the “targeted” rate. Overall Inflation is getting worse.
  • Pet Food – Prices are up 2.3% vs February and 5.9% vs March 2021. They are being measured against a deflationary year, but that increase is almost triple the pre-pandemic 2.1% increase from 2018 to 2019.
  • Food at Home – Prices are up 1.5% from February. The increase from 2021 is 10%, which is the largest March increase and the only double digit monthly % increase for any month since 10.3% in March 1981. Inflation for this category since 2019 is still 10+% more than the national CPI.
  • Pets & Supplies – Prices were up 0.6% from their record in February, setting a new record. March prices are being compared to deflated prices in 2021 but the increase only trails Food at Home, Veterinary and the national CPI.
  • Veterinary Services – March prices are up an incredible 3.4% from February. This pushed them up 9.1% from 2021, more than twice the increase in past years. They also took over the top spot in the increase since 2019, +17.9%.
  • Medical Services – Prices sharply increased at the start of the pandemic in March 2020 but then inflation slowed and returned to a more normal rate in 2021 and 2022.
  • Pet Services – Inflation slowed in 2020 but began to grow in 2021 & 2022. Prices are up 0.3% from February and 5% from 2021, slowing slightly from a record 6.5% increase in February, but still above the increase of previous years.
  • Haircuts & Other Personal Services – Prices fell from February but remain higher than usual since 2020.
  • Total Pet – The inflation rate is getting larger and is now 5 times the rate of last year. Food & Veterinary are driving it up as it gets ever closer to the national CPI rate of increase. Inflation has caused problems in the past by reducing the frequency of purchase in Supplies, Services and Veterinary. Super Premium Food has been generally immune as consumers are used to paying big bucks and it is needed every day. We’ll see if consumers are still willing to pay the higher prices for more discretionary products and services at the same frequency as they did in the past.

Now here’s a look at Year to Date numbers. How does 2022 compare to previous years…so far?

The increase from 2021 to 2022 is the biggest for 7 of 9 categories. The average annual increase since 2019 is over 3% for all but Pet Food & Pet Supplies. This is due to deflation in 2021.

  • U.S. CPI – The current increase is double the average increase from 2019>2022, but over 4 times the average annual increase from 2018>2021. Inflation is a big problem that started recently.
  • Pet Food – Inflation is growing stronger, especially after deflation in 2021.
  • Food at Home – The 2022 YTD inflation beat the overall CPI. You can clearly see the impact of supply chain issues.
  • Pets & Pet Supplies – Prices have strongly turned up since the beginning of the year. Although the 2021>22 increase is being measured against a deflationary 2021, it is very significant and the highest of any Pet Industry segment.
  • Veterinary Services – Has the most inflation since 2019 and is the only segment on the chart in which the inflation rate has consistently grown each year throughout the pandemic and recovery. No matter what, just charge more.
  • Medical Services – Prices went up significantly at the beginning of the pandemic, but the rate has slowed since and has now essentially returned to pre-pandemic levels.
  • Pet Services – Inflation slowed a little in March after February’s largest year over year monthly increase in history. However, the current YTD increase remains 2nd only to 6.6% in 2009. Demand has grown for Pet Services while the availability has decreased, a formula for inflation.
  • Haircuts & Personal Services – The services segments, essential and non-essential were hit hardest by the pandemic. Now as consumers move closer to their normal patterns of spending, including value shopping, prices actually fell in March. The YTD inflation is still high but moving closer to a more normal rate.
  • Total Pet – When we first looked at the pandemic impact on Petflation. We saw basically two different patterns. Prices in the Services segments continued to increase, and the rate accelerated as we moved into 2021. The product segments – Food and Supplies, were on a different path. They generally deflated in 2020 and didn’t return to 2019 levels until mid-year 2021. Food prices began a slow increase, but Supplies remained stable until we neared yearend. In 2022, everything changed as Food and Supplies prices turned sharply up. In March, inflation in the 2 largest segments – Food and Veterinary, accelerated while it slowed in Supplies and Services. This pushed the YTD CPI increase vs 2021 for Total Petflation ever closer to the extraordinarily high rates in the overall market.

Inflation is radically increasing in the Pet Market. Will it impact spending? Let’s put it into perspective. The 5.8% YTD increase in Total Pet is far below the 10.3% record set in 2009 but almost 4 times larger than the 1.5% avg since then.

Although pet spending continues to move to higher income groups, the impact of inflation varies by segment. Supplies is the most affected. Many categories are commoditized and very price sensitive. Super Premium Food has become widespread because the perceived value has grown. Higher prices just push people to value shop. Veterinary prices have strongly inflated for years, resulting in a reduction in visit frequency. Spending in the Services segment is driven by higher incomes, so inflation is less impactful. We’ll just have to wait and see the impact of the latest surge in Petflation.

2020 Total Pet Spending was $83.74B – Where did it come from…?

Total Pet Spending in the U.S. was $83.74B in 2020, a $5.31B (6.8%) increase from 2019. These figures and others in this report are calculated from data in the annual Consumer Expenditure Survey conducted by the US BLS. 2020 was a strong year for the industry, on the surface. However, when you look at each segment the pandemic caused considerable turmoil. Pet Food spending spiked as specific groups binge bought early in the year. The high prices of Supplies and the fact that many categories are discretionary, rather than necessary caused their $ to continue falling. Services was hurt the most as many outlets were subject to pandemic related restrictions and closures. Veterinary Services was deemed the other necessary pet expenditure by consumers so their $ surged. 2020 Pet Spending certainly deserves a closer look.

The first question is, “Who is spending most of the $83+ billion dollars?” There are of course multiple answers. We will look at Total Pet Spending in terms of 10 demographic categories. In each category we will identify the group that is responsible for most of the overall spending. Our goal was to find demographic segments in each category that account for 60% or more of the total. To get the finalists, we started with the biggest spending segment then bundled related groups until we reached at or near 60%.

Knowing the specific group within each demographic category that was responsible for generating the bulk of Total Pet $ is the first step in our analysis. Next, we will drill even deeper to show the best and worst performing demographic segments/groups and finally, the segments that generated the biggest dollar gains or losses in 2020.

In the chart that follows, the demographic categories are ranked by Total Pet market share from highest to lowest. We also included their share of total CU’s (Financially Independent Consumer Units) and their performance rating. Performance is their share of market vs their share of CU’s. This is an important number, not just for measuring the impact of a particular demographic group, but also in measuring the importance of the whole demographic category in Spending. All are large groups with a high market share. A performance score of 120+% means that this demographic is extremely important in generating increased Pet Spending. I have highlighted the 5 groups with 120+% performance.

The only group change from 2019 is that Rural was added to Suburban as the bigger Suburbs lost ground in 2020. There were changes in the numbers and rankings and only 5 made the 120%+ club, down from 6 in 2019. Higher Education and 35>64 yr olds dropped out while Everyone Works moved in. Married Couples made the biggest gain in share and performance while All Wage & Salary Earners had the biggest drops. In fact, their share fell below 60% and their performance was less than 100%. Higher Income remains the single most important factor in Total Pet Spending.

  1. Race/Ethnic – White, not Hispanic (87.3%) down from 87.6%. This is the 2nd largest group and has the largest share of Pet Spending. Their performance was essentially stable at 127.6% but they fell from #2 to #3 in terms of importance in Pet Spending demographic characteristics. Although this demographic, along with age, are 2 areas in which the consumers have no control, spending disparities within the group are enhanced by differences in other areas like Income, CU Composition and homeownership. There are also apparently cultural differences which impact Pet Spending. Asian Americans are first in income, education and spending but last in Pet Spending as a percentage of total spending – 0.37% vs a national average of 1.04%.
  2. Housing – Homeowners (83.3%) Controlling your “own space” has long been a key to larger pet families and more pet spending. 2020 was a bad year for renters (-$0.62B) but an even worse year for Homeowners w/Mtges (-$2.1B). Homeowners spent $5.92B more but the group’s performance fell from 127.7% to 126.6% because of more home owning CUs. They dropped from 3rd to 4th place in importance for increased pet spending. The homeownership rate is growing in the younger CUs but most of the pet spending lift in the group is coming from older people who are still working but have paid off their homes.
  3. # in CU – 2+ people (80.3%) up from 78.2%. Singles are now the only group with under 100% performance. In 2020 all CUs with 3 or less people spent less. The 2.1% gain in share and performance increase of 2+ CUs from 112.2% to 114.4% was entirely driven by +$7.7B from 4 person CUs and +$2.7B from the 5+ Person group.
  4. Area – Suburban & Rural (71.6%) Homeownership is high and they have the “space” for pets. The larger suburbs had a bad year so Rural was added to get to 60+% share of pet spending. This pushed performance up to 113.6% from 95.1%. Center City had an increase of $0.68B but their performance is by far the worst at 76.8%
  5. # Earners – “Everyone Works” (70.7%) up from 68.4%. These are CUs of any size where all adults are employed. This group’s share ranking stayed in 5th place. However, their performance increased from 117.0% to 123.0%. They joined the 120%+ club and are now the 5th most important category. CUs with 2 or more earners had a $5.0B increase. This further reinforces the tie between income and increased pet spending.
  6. CU Composition – Married Couples (64.7%) With or without children, two people, committed to each other, is an ideal situation for Pet Parenting. In 2020, they moved up from 10th to 6th in share of spending due entirely to CUs with an oldest child over 6. Those with a child over 18 had an especially good year, +$8.57B. The overall group’s performance skyrocketed from 124.3% to 133.4%, moving them up to 2nd place in importance.
  7. Income – Over $70K (64.3%) They maintained their share but their performance rating fell to 147.9% from 155.0%. However, CU income is still by far the single most important factor in increased Pet Spending. Spending was on a true roller coaster – Under $50K: +$2.98B; $50>100K: -$4.57B; $100>150K: +$8.45B; $150K>:-$1.55B. The key dividing line was $100K. The over $100K group now has 28.5% of CUs but accounts for 51.6% of Total Pet $.
  8. Age – 35>64 (63.2%) There was a clear divide within this group. The 35>54 yr olds spent $3.18B less while the 55>64 yr olds spent $6.36B more. They maintained share but their performance fell from 121.0% to 118.4%. They are now out of the 120+% club and they dropped from 6th to 8th in overall importance.
  9. Education – Associates Degree or Higher (61.3%) down from 68.4%. Higher Education level is usually tied to higher income and Pet spending. It can also be a key factor in recognizing the value in product improvements. 2020 largely threw this history out the window as those with less than a college degree led the way in spending in the necessary segments – Food and Veterinary. However, they did have a minor drop in Services $ and the biggest drop in Supplies $. Overall spending for the Assoc & Higher group fell -$2.33B and their performance fell precipitously from 123.1% to 107.0%, removing them from the 120%+ club. In 2020, Higher Education fell to next to last in importance in Pet Spending.
  10. Occupation – All Wage & Salary Earners (59.2%) – Their share fell sharply from 65.0% to 59.2%. Their drop in performance from 106.5% to 96.3% was even more significant as they are the only big group with performance below 100%. Service workers had a small, $0.3B increase but the overall increase was driven by Self-Employed, +$8.84B and Managers/Professionals, +$3.41B. Every other occupation and Retirees spent less. Low level, white collar workers had the worst year, with a spending decrease of -$3.56B. In 2020, “The Bosses” ruled in Pet Spending!

Total Pet Spending is a sum of the spending in all four industry segments. The “big demographic spenders” listed above are determined by the total pet numbers. The share of spending and performance of these groups varies between segments and in a few cases falls below 60%. We also altered the groups in some segments to better reflect where most of the business is coming from. There is no doubt that the pandemic caused some turmoil in Pet Spending,

The group performance is a very important measure. Any group that exceeds 120% indicates an increased concentration of the business which makes it easier for marketing to target the big spenders. Income over $70K is again the clear winner, but there are other strong performers. High performance also indicates the presence of segments within these categories that are seriously underperforming. These can be identified and targeted for improvement. The low performance by the Wage/Salary earners came as a result of the strong performance of Self-Employed.

Now, let’s drill deeper and look at 2020’s best and worst performing segments in each demographic category

Most of the best and worst performers are just who we would expect and there are only 6 that are different from 2018. Changes from 2019 are “boxed”. We should note:

  • Income is important in Pet Spending, which is shown by the 194.3% performance by the $100>149K> group. There was also a clear dividing line. Over $100K: 181.2%; Under $100K: 67.7%.
  • Occupation – “I’m the Boss” (Self-Employed & Mgrs/Professionals) The only occupations with 100+% performance.
  • Age – The 54>64 yr olds are Boomers that have the highest income and biggest families in their generation.
  • Region – With a strong year from Rural areas, the Midwest replaced the Northeast at the top.
  • CU Composition/Number – The importance of children was maintained, especially older ones and the performance of Married, Couple Only fell again. The “magic” CU number also moved up from 3 to 4.
  • Boomers moved back on top with their emotional binge food buying and Gen Z fell to the bottom – no surprise.

Most expected winners are still doing well. The “new” winners reflect the spending surge from the Boomers. In the next section we’ll look at the segments who literally made the biggest difference in spending in 2020.

We’ll “Show you the money”! This chart details the biggest $ changes in spending from 2019.

Lots of turmoil. There are 24 Winners and Losers. 6 segments held their spot from 2019 while 6 switched from winner to loser or vice versa. Overall, 75% were different from 2019.

  • Area Type – The big suburbs still have the biggest share of Pet $ (38.9%) but they flipped from 1st to last in 2020.
    • Winner – Rural – Pet Spending: $16.09B; Up $9.31B (+137.1%)                          2019: Suburbs 2500>
    • Loser – Suburbs 2500> – Pet Spending: $32.61B; Down -$3.54B (-9.8%)        2019: Center City
    • Comment – Spending in The Rural segment literally exploded. Center City also spent $0.68B more – a big change from their recent pattern. The downside came from the usually reliable Suburbs.
  • Occupation – Tech, Sales, Clerical flipped from 1st to last.
    • Winner –– Self-Employed – Pet Spending: $15.87B; Up $8.84B (+125.9%)                        2019: Tech, Sales, Clerical
    • Loser – Technical, Sales, Clerical – Pet Spending: $9.59B; Down -$3.56B (-27.1%)        2019: Mgrs & Professionals
    • Comment – In 2020 the “Bosses” ruled as Self-Employed & Mgrs/Professionals together spent $12.25B more.
  • Region – The 2019 winner and loser flipped places.
    • Winner – Midwest – Pet Spending: $25.27B; Up $8.65B (+52.0%)                                2019: Northeast
    • Loser – Northeast – Pet Spending: $12.61B; Down -$2.38B (-15.9%)                            2019: Midwest
    • Comment – In 2019 the Northeast had the only increase in Total Pet $. In 2020 they fell to the bottom. The Midwest made a huge comeback, but the West also spent more. They were the only regions to spend more.
  • CU Composition – Having children became more important as Married, Couple Only had another big $ decrease.
    • Winner –– Married, Oldest Child 18> – Pet Spending: $16.858; Up $8.57B (+103.3%)         2019: Singles
    • Loser – Married, Couple Only – Pet Spending: $21.20B; Down -$1.71B (-7.5%)                         2019: Married, Couple Only
    • Comment – Kids matter! Couples with an oldest child over 6 spent more but surprisingly, so did Single Parents.
  • Income – No repeats or flips here but the negative impact of the pandemic on the middle-income group is apparent.
    • Winner – $100 to $149K – Pet Spending: $23.37B; Up $8.45B (+56.6%)                                   2019: $150 to $199K
    • Loser – $70 to $99K – Pet Spending: $10.64B; Down -$3.52B (-24.9%)                                       2019: Under $30K
    • Comment – The $100-149K group had the biggest increase but spending flipped up or down by $50K income groups. <$50K Up; $50>100K Down; $100>150K Up; $150>200K Down; $200K> Up.
  • Housing – Homeowners w/o Mtge kept their spot at the top.
    • Winner – Homeowner w/o Mtge – Pet Spending: $28.81B; Up $8.02B (+38.6%)                   2019: Homeowner w/o Mtge
    • Loser – Homeowner w/Mtge – Pet Spending: $40.96B; Down -$2.10B (-4.9%)                       2019: Renter
    • Comment – Homeowners w/Mtge, the biggest spenders, had the biggest drop, but Renters again spent less.
  • # in CU – 2 People CUs continued their decline and stayed at the bottom.
    • Winner – 4 People – Pet Spending: $17.88B; Up $7.74B (+76.3%)                          2019: 1 Person
    • Loser – 2 People – Pet Spending: $28.43B; Down -$2.57B (-8.3%)                         2019: 2 People
    • Comment: Although 2 people CUs still spend the most, 34.0% of all Pet $, in 2020 the movement was to bigger CUs. 4 People led the way but 5+ Person CUs had the only other increase. 4+ People was the new magic number.
  • Age – A new winner and loser, with the Boomer surge coming to the forefront.
    • Winner – 55>64 yrs – Pet Spending: $24.15B; Up $6.36B (+35.8%)                             2019: 75+ yrs
    • Loser – 35>44 yrs – Pet Spending: $13.29B; Down $1.56B (-10.5%)                             2019: 45>54 yrs
    • Comment: There was another spending rollercoaster in 2020: <25: -$1.06B; 25>34: +$2.56B; 35>54: -$3.1B; 55>74: +$7.38B; 75+: -$0.48B.
  • Generation – The Generations flipped at the top and bottom of the Total Pet spending change ladder.
    • Winner Baby Boomers – Pet Spending: $34.85B; Up $6.11B (+21.3%)                               2019: Gen X
    • Loser – Gen X – Pet Spending: $23.96B; Down -$1.79B (-7.0%)                                               2019: Baby Boomers
    • Comment – Boomer $ spiked in Food & Veterinary while the Gen X growth ended largely due to a drop in Food $.
  • Education – BA/BS stayed at the bottom while those without a College degree took over the top spot.
    • Winner – Less than College Grads – Pet Spending: $39.68B; Up $6.02B (+17.9%)         2019: Adv. College Degree
    • Loser – BA/BS Degree – Pet Spending: $22.56B; Down -$1.26B (-5.3%)                              2019: BA/BS Degree
    • Comment – Largely due to changes in Food spending patterns, Education’s importance declined sharply in 2020.
  • Race/Ethnic – White, Not Hispanics (87.3% of all Pet $) won again.
    • Winner – White, Not Hispanic – Pet Spending: $73.09B; Up $4.36B (+6.3%)               2019: White, Not Hispanic
    • Loser – Asian American – Pet Spending: $1.59B; Up +$0.06B (+3.8%)                            2019: African American
    • Comment – While we had a usual winner, it’s important to note that all groups spent more on their pets in 2020.
  • # Earners – 2 Earners have the biggest share of Pet $ (45.1%) and kept their spot at the top.
    • Winner – 2 Earners – Pet Spending: $37.75B; Up $3.80B (+11.2%)                                  2019: 2 Earners
    • Loser – No Earner, Single – Pet Spending: $4.82B; Down -$1.10B (-18.5%)                  2019: 1 Earner, 2+ CU
    • Comment – While 2+ Earner CUs had the biggest increases, only No Earner, Singles spent less in 2020.

We’ve seen the best overall performers and the “winners” and “losers” in terms of increase/decrease in Total Pet Spending $ for 12 Demographic Categories. Now, here are some segments that didn’t win an award, but they deserve….


5 of the 6 are new to the list. Let’s start with Single Parents. They are the group with the most financial pressure. Their spending increase of $0.74B (+48.1%) is quite an accomplishment. Next in line is 5+ Person CU’s. 2020 was a year for bigger CUs. They finished 2nd to 4 Person CUs. 2020 was largely focused on the importance of higher incomes but there were some exceptions. The low income $30>39K group also had a significant increase in spending, +$1.29B (+25.5%). We have already noted that all Racial/Ethnic groups increased spending but African Americans had the only double digit percentage increase at +21.9%. Millennials are the only repeat on the list as their spending increase was 2nd only to the big surge by Boomers. While Self-Employed clearly won the occupational battle, Managers & Professionals finished a strong second and inspired the creation of the “I’m the Boss” grouping.


To properly review 2020, we must put it into context with recent history. Total Pet Spending reached $78.60B in 2018, a $14.28B, 22.2% increase from 2014. However, it was not a steady rise, Total spending actually fell in 2016 and each segment had at least one down year. There were a number of factors driving both the growth and tumult within the industry. Two big positives were the movement to super premium pet foods and the rapid expansion of the number of outlets offering pet services. On the downside were value shopping, trading $ between segments and outside influences like the FDA dog food warning and tariffs. Pricing, inflation/deflation was also a negative/positive factor in some cases.

In 2019, the industry had another small decrease, -$0.16B (-0.2%) which was largely driven by a huge drop in spending in Supplies caused by Tarifflation. This affected virtually every demographic segment and caused Supplies $ to fall below 2014. Services spending also fell slightly as consumers value shopped. The good news was Pet Food bounced back from the impact of the 2018 FDA warning to reach a new record high. Veterinary $ also increased 2.7%. Unfortunately, this was entirely due to a 4.1% increase in prices. The amount of Vet Services actually decreased.

That brings us to 2020 and the Pandemic. This caused a lot of turmoil. The effect was positive for Food and Veterinary, especially Food. Out of fear of possible shortages, many Pet Parents binge bought Pet Food. Spending also increased considerably in Veterinary, as consumers focused on their Pets’ needs. The more discretionary segments suffered. With continued high prices, Supplies continued their widespread decline. Services had by far the biggest negative impact from the pandemic as many outlets were subject to closures and restrictions.

In the best/worst performing segments, Boomers took back the top spot, but spending moved towards larger 4 Person CU’s and a more rural environment in the Midwest. It was another “booming” year for Boomers.

The biggest $ changes saw more turmoil than in 2019. 6 segments held their position, compared to 9 in 2019, while 6 switched from 1st to last or vice versa, compared to 4 in 2019. Many winners were the “usual suspects” but there were some surprise winners with huge increases: < College Grads, Self-Employed, Rural, 4 Person CUs, Married, w/Child 18>. The 55>64 yr-old Boomers are not a surprise winner. However, a closer examination shows that many surprises have close ties to this group. To better understand this, let’s look closer at the Rural Segment – avg age 56 – 45% H/O w/o Mtge. Farms are in Rural areas and up to 25% of all Self-Employed businesses are non-corp. farms. Farmers avg age is 57. The median income for commercial family farms is $164K. Rural residents are also 50% less likely to be a college grad. Areas with low population have bigger CUs and more pets, but also have less access to retail stores, so they are more likely to fear product shortages. This example illustrates how the surprises can be connected to each other and to more normal winners like the 55>64 yr old Boomers. We will continue our analysis of 2020 Pet $ by drilling down into the individual segments.

But before we go…The Ultimate Total Pet Spending CU in 2020 consists of 4 people – a married couple with a child over 18. They are in the 55 to 64 age range. They are White, but not Hispanic. At least one graduated from college. They both work in their own business and earn $100>149K. They paid off the mortgage on their house located in the rural Midwest