Retail Channel Monthly $ Update – June Final & July Advance

While inflation continues to slow, its cumulative effect on consumer spending is still being felt. The rate of sales increases is still slower than the decrease in inflation in a number of channels, which causes a drop in the amount of product sold. A recovery may have started but there is still a long road ahead, 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 will begin with the Final Report for June and then go to the Advance Report for July. Our focus is comparing to last year but also 2021 and 2019. We’ll show both 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’ll focus on Pet Relevant Channels.

The data will be presented in detailed charts to facilitate visual comparison between groups/channels. The charts will show 11 separate measurements. To save space they will be displayed in a stacked bar format for the channel charts.

  • Current Month change – % & $ vs previous month
  • Current Month change – % & $ vs same month in 2022 and 2021.
    • Current Month Real change for 2023 vs 2022 and vs 2021 – % factoring in inflation
  • Current Ytd change – % & $ for 2023 vs 2022, 2021 and 2019.
    • Current Ytd Real change % for 2023 vs 2022, 2021 and 2019
  • Monthly & Ytd $ & CPIs for 22>23 and 21>23 which are targeted by channel will also be shown. (CPI Details are at the end of the report)

First, the June Final. All were down from May. However, all but Gas Stations were up vs 22, 21 & 19. When you consider inflation, the negatives (11) were more than in May (7). Gas Stations are still really down vs 2019. The biggest change may be that Relevant Retail is again “really” down monthly vs 22. (All $ are Actual, Not Seasonally Adjusted)

The June Final is $0.4B more than the Advance. Specifically, Restaurants: +$0.9B; Auto: +$1.0B; Gas Stations: -$0.7B; Relevant Retail: -$0.7B. The drop in sales for Relevant Retail from the Advance Report made one big difference. In the Advance Report for June vs 2022, their “real” sales were +0.1%. In the Final June Report their “real” sales vs June 2022 were -0.1% – a small, but significant change. Sales were down from May for all big groups but actual sales for all but Gas Stations were positive in all measurements vs 22, 21 & 19. Strong deflation caused Gas Stations sales to again drop monthly and YTD vs 2022. There were 11 real sales drops, 8 vs 2021. Restaurants have the most growth and are the only group with all positives. The big deal is that real sales for Relevant Retail vs 22 & 21 are all negative. The monthly data vs a year ago has now been negative 7 of the last 8 months. They are #1 in performance since 2019 but only 49% of the growth is real.

Now, let’s see how some Key Pet Relevant channels did in June in the Stacked Bar Graph Format

Overall– Only 2 were up from May, but vs 22, 7 were up vs June 22 and 10 Ytd. 7 were “really” down monthly & Ytd. Vs 2021, 9 had increases but only 5 monthly & 3 Ytd were real. Vs 2019, Off/Gift/Souv & Disc Dept Strs were really down.

  • Building Material Stores – The pandemic focus on home has produced sales growth of 35.7% since 2019. Prices for the Bldg/Matl group have inflated 20.2% since 2021 which is having an impact. HomeCtr/Hdwe stores are down for the month & Ytd vs 22 but up vs 21 &19. Farm Stores are up in all measurements. However, both have all negative real numbers vs 2022 & 2021. Importantly, only 22.1% of their 19>23 lift was real. It was only this high because most of the lift came prior to the inflation wave. Avg 19>23 Growth: HomeCtr/Hdwe: 7.4%, Real: 1.3%; Farm: 11.5%, Real: 5.2%
  • Food & Drug – Both channels are truly essential. Except for the pandemic food binge buying, they tend to have smaller fluctuations in $. They have been very different in inflation but the gap is closing as the Grocery rate is now only 12% higher than Drugs/Med products. Drug Stores are positive in all measurements and 74% of their growth since 2019 is real. While the $ are up for Supermarkets their 2023 real sales are down vs 2022 & 2021 and just slightly positive vs 2019. Only 8% is real growth. Avg 19>23 Growth: Supermarkets: +6.3%, Real: +0.6%; Drug Stores: +5.4%, Real: +4.0%.
  • Sporting Goods Stores – They also benefited from the pandemic in that consumers turned to self-entertainment, especially sports & outdoor activities. Sales are up from May but are only actually & really positive YTD vs 2022 and 2019. Prices are still deflating -0.9%, a big change from +5.4% in 21>22 and +6.5% in 20>21. The result is that 60% of their 43.7% lift since 2019 is real. Their Avg 19>23 Growth Rate is: +9.5%; Real: +6.0%.
  • Gen Mdse Stores – All were down vs May. However, actual sales vs 22, 21 & 19 were up for all but Disc Dept Strs vs June 22 & 21. In real sales, Clubs/SupCtrs were only up vs June 21 but $/Value Stores were up in all but Ytd vs 21. Disc Dept Stores are the worst performer and are now really down -0.9% vs 2019. The other channels average 35% In real growth. Avg 19>23 Growth: SupCtr/Club: 6.2%, Real: 2.2%; $/Value Strs: +6.7%, Real: +2.7%; Disc. Dept.: +2.5%, Real: -0.2%
  • Office, Gift & Souvenir Stores – Actual sales are up 1.3% from May but down from June 22. They were up in all other measurements vs 22, 21 & 19. Their real sales numbers are all negative including -6.8% Ytd vs 2019. Their recovery started late and their slow progress may have stalled in June. Avg Growth Rate: +0.9%, Real: -1.7%
  • Internet/Mail Order – Sales are down from May but above $100B again at $100.8B – another monthly record. All measurements are positive, but their growth is only 54% of their average since 2019. However, 80% of their 98% growth since 2019 is real. Avg Growth: +18.6%, Real: +15.4%. As expected, they are still by far the growth leaders since 2019.
  • A/O Miscellaneous – Pet Stores are 22>24% of total $. In May 2020 they began their recovery which reached a record level of $100B for the first time in 2021. In 2022 their sales dipped in January, July, Sept>Nov, rose in December, fell in Jan>Feb, turned up in Mar>May, then fell in June. Ytd Real sales are down vs 22, but all other measurements are positive. They are still the % increase leaders vs 2021 and 72% of their 56.6% growth since 2019 is real. Average 19>23 Growth: +11.9%, Real: +8.9%. They are still 2nd in growth since 2019 to the internet. Pet Stores are surely contributing.

Inflation remains an important factor in Retail. In actual $, 7 channels reported increases in sales vs 2022 and 9 vs 2021. When you factor in inflation, the number with any “real” growth drops to 4 vs 2022 & 5 vs 2021. Inflation has impacted sales increases. June was not a strong month. The lift was 30% below May & 50% of Jan & Feb. The impact is very visible at the retail channel level. Inflation grew slightly in July. Let’s look at the impact on the Advance Retail $ales for July.

Since 2019, we have seen the 2 biggest monthly drops in history but a lot of positives in the Pandemic recovery. Total Retail reached $700B in a month for the first time and broke the $7T barrier in 2021. Relevant Retail was also strong as annual sales reached $4T in 2021 and all big groups set annual $ales records. In 2022 radical inflation was a big factor. At first, this reduces the amount of product sold but not $ spent. Total Retail hit $8T and all groups again set new annual records in 2022. In 2023, sales got on an up/down rollercoaster. All were down in June and Total Retail was down in July but 2 groups were up. Except for Gas Stations, all actual sales are positive vs 22, 21 & 19. There is also some stability in that of the groups’ total of 20 “real” sales measurements vs 22 & 21, 11 are positive, including monthly sales vs 22 for Relevant Retail. Of Note: The lift vs 2022 is up from June for Relevant & Total Retail but still far below Jan & Feb levels.

Overall – Inflation Reality – Total, Auto & Gas prices all deflated. For Relevant Retail, the rate was slightly below the sales lift. For Restaurants, inflation remains high, +7.1% but they still have the strongest performance vs 2022 & 2021. The biggest news is that monthly real sales for Relative Retail vs last year are positive again. They have been negative for 8 of the last 10 months. However, their Ytd Real sales are still down vs 2022 & 2021. They still have a ways to go.

Total Retail – Since June 2020, every month but April 23 has set a monthly sales record. December 22 $ were $748.9B, a new all-time record. Sales have been on a rollercoaster. They grew in May, fell in June & grew in July. Inflation has become deflation, but sales growth is still low. Sales are up 2.5% vs last year. That’s only 32% of their average 19>23 growth. Also, real sales are down monthly and Ytd vs 21 and only 35% of the 19>23 growth is real. Inflation in Total Retail has radically slowed vs 2022 but we still see its cumulative impact. Avg 2019>23 Growth: +7.9%, Real: +3.0%.

Restaurants – They were hit hard by the pandemic and didn’t begin recovery until March 2021. However, they have had strong growth since then, setting an all-time monthly record of $91B in December and exceeding $1T in 2022 for the 1st time. They are the best performing big group vs 22 & 21. Inflation decreased to 7.1% in June from 7.6% last month but is still +15.0% vs 21 and +21.4% vs 19. 39.6% of their 41.4% growth since 19 is real but they remain 2nd in performance behind Relevant Retail. Recovery started late but inflation started early. Avg 2019>23 Growth: +9.0%, Real: +3.9%. They just account for 13.2% of Total Retail $, but their performance improves the overall 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 $1.48T in 2021 but much of it was due to skyrocketing inflation. In 2022 sales got on a rollercoaster. Inflation started to drop mid-year, but it caused 4 down months in actual sales which are the only reported sales negatives by any big group in 2021>2022. This is bad but their real 2022 sales numbers were much worse, down -8.2% vs 2021 and -8.9% vs 2019. 2023 started off a little better in Jan>Feb, got worse in Mar>Apr, grew in May, then fell in Jun>Jul. Again, only monthly & Ytd real sales vs 21 are negative. Prices are -1.3% vs 22, monthly & Ytd. Only 7% of 19>23 growth is real. Avg 2019>23 Growth: +6.8%, Real: +0.6%.

Gas Stations – Gas Stations were also hit hard. If you stay home, you drive less and need less gas. This group started recovery in March 2021 and inflation began. Sales got on a rollercoaster in 2022 but reached a record $583B. Inflation started to slow in August and prices slightly deflated in Dec & Feb then strongly dropped in Mar>Jul, -15.0% Ytd vs 22. However, prices are still +15.3% vs 21. The deflation is directly tied to the monthly & Ytd sales drops vs 22. Real Ytd sales vs 22 are up slightly but still down vs 21 & 19.  Avg 2019>23 Growth: +6.2%, Real: -1.2%.The numbers show the cumulative impact of inflation and demonstrate how strong deflation can be both a positive and a negative.

Relevant Retail – Less Auto, Gas and Restaurants – They account for 60+% of Total Retail $ in a variety of channels, so they took many different paths through the pandemic. However, their only down month was April 2020, and they led the way in Total Retail’s recovery. Sales got on a roller coaster in 2022 but all months in 2022 set new records with December reaching a new all-time high, $481B, and an annual record of $4.81T. In 2023, Jan & Feb had normal drops then grew in March, starting another roller coaster. Sales fell in Jun>Jul, but all actual sales are up vs 22, 21 & 19. Real sales are only down Ytd vs 22 & 21. Monthly Real sales vs last year are again positive but have been negative in 8 of the last 10 months. 48% of their 19>23 $ are real – #1 in performance. Avg 2019>23 Growth is: +8.3%, Real: +4.3%. This big group is where America shops. The fact that real sales turned positive again gives us hope.

Inflation is slowing but the cumulative impact is still there. Sales increases are also slowing, but the fact that 55% of all real sales numbers vs 22 & 21 are positive again is a good sign. Restaurants are still doing well, and Auto is improving. Gas Stations are now seeing the negative impact of strong deflation with a continued drop in actual sales. However, as always, our biggest concern is Relevant Retail. Their situation has definitely improved. Ytd real sales vs 22 & 21 are still negative, which clearly shows the impact of cumulative inflation. However, monthly real sales vs 22 have been positive in 2 of the last 3 months. This is not the end of the crisis, but a slow turnaround appears to be continuing.

Here’s a more detailed look at July by Key Channels in the Stacked Bar Graph Format

  • Relevant Retail: Avg Growth Rate: +8.3%, Real: +4.3%. Only 4 channels were up from June but 6 were up vs 22 & 8 vs 21. Only 4 had a “real” increase vs 22 or 21. The negative impact of inflation appears to be slowing sales increases.
  • All Dept Stores – This group was struggling before the pandemic hit them hard. They began recovery in March 2020. Their Actual $ are up from June but down for all comparisons but Ytd vs 21 & 19. Their real sales are down in all measurements, even vs 2019. Avg 2019>23 Growth: +0.15%, Real: -2.5%.
  • Club/SuprCtr/$ – They fueled a big part of the overall recovery because they focus on value which has broad consumer appeal. $ales are down vs June but up in all other measurements. Their real sales are down in all measurements but Ytd vs 19. Only 35% of their 27.8% 19>23 lift is real – the impact of inflation. Avg Growth: +6.3%, Real: +2.4%.
  • Grocery- These stores depend on frequent purchases, so except for the binge buying in 2020, their changes are usually less radical. $ are up from June and in all measurements vs 22, 21 & 19. However, inflation hit them hard. Real sales are down for all but Ytd vs 2019 and only 6.9% of the growth since 2019 is real. Avg Growth: +6.2%, Real: +0.5%.
  • Health/Drug Stores – Many stores in this group are essential, but consumers visit far less frequently than Grocery stores. Sales are down from June but up in all other measurements, both actual and real vs 22, 21 & 19. Their inflation rate has been relatively low so 73% of their 23.9% growth from 2019 is real. Avg 2019>23 Growth: +5.5%, Real: +4.1%.
  • Clothing and Accessories – Clothes initially mattered less when you stayed home. That changed in March 21 with strong growth through 2022. $ales are up from June and vs 22, 21 & 19. However, Real sales are down for all but Ytd vs 21 & 19. Another positive is: 63% of their 2019>23 growth is real. Avg 2019>23 Growth: +3.8%, Real:+2.4%
  • Home Furnishings – In mid-2020 consumers’ focus turned to their homes and furniture became a priority. Inflation has slowed but was very high in 2022. Actual sales are down from June and in all other measurements but Ytd vs 2019. Their real sales are again all down, even vs 2019. Avg 2019>23 Growth: +3.6%, Real: -0.5%.
  • Electronic & Appliances – This channel has many problems. Sales fell in Apr>May of 2020 and didn’t reach 2019 levels until March 2021. $ales are down from June and in all measurements but Ytd vs 19. However, consistent deflation has caused real sales to be up in all measurements. Avg 2019>23 Growth: +0.5%, Real: +2.4%.
  • Building Material, Farm & Garden & Hardware –They truly benefited from the consumers’ focus on home. In 2022 the lift slowed as inflation grew to double digits. Inflation is still high at 7.4%. Sales are down from June and they are again all negative vs 2022. They still have the highest Inflation of any channel so real sales are negative in all but Ytd vs 2019. Also, just 20% of their sales growth since 2019 is real. Avg 2019>23 Growth is: +7.7%, Real: +1.7%.
  • Sporting Goods, Hobby and Book Stores – Consumers turned their attention to recreation and Sporting Goods stores sales took off. Book & Hobby Stores recovered more slowly. Actual $ales are down from June but positive for all but Ytd vs 21. Real sales are down for all but Ytd vs 22 & 19. Prices deflated again in July and their inflation rate has been much lower than most groups so 65.7% of their 30.6% growth since 2019 is real. Avg 2019>23 Growth: +6.9%, Real: +4.7%.
  • All Miscellaneous Stores – Pet Stores have been a key part of the strong and growing recovery of this group. They finished 2020 at +0.9% but sales took off in March 21 and have continued to grow. Sales are down vs June but positive in all but real $ vs July 22. Their increase vs 2021 fell to 2nd place but vs 2019 they are still 2nd. NonStore is #1 in both. 67% of their 43.6% 19>23 growth and even 50% of their 21>23 growth is real. Their Avg 19>23 Growth is: 9.5%, Real: 6.6%.
  • NonStore Retailers – 90% of their volume comes from Internet/Mail Order/TV. The pandemic accelerated online spending. They ended 2020 +21.4%. The growth continued in 2021 as sales exceeded $100B for the 1st time and they broke the $1 Trillion barrier. Their growth slowed significantly in 2022 and now 2023. $ are up from June and all other measurements are positive. 78% of their 88.0% growth since 2019 is real. Their Avg Growth: +17.1%, Real: +14.0%.

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 and by the end of 2021 it had become very widespread. In 2022, there was a new challenge, the worst inflation in 40 years. Overall, and in most product categories it has slowed since July 22, which should help the Retail Situation. Sales were down from June for 3 big groups and 7 smaller channels. Inflation continues to slow in most channels and even deflate in a few. However, some channels like Auto, Gas Stations, Grocery and Bldg Material stores still have high cumulative inflation rates so they are still struggling. Only a few channels are doing well. The new problem is that the sales increase rate vs 2022 for many channels has slowed and is even below the lower inflation rate. Real monthly sales for Relevant Retail have been positive vs 22 for 2 of the last 3 months but are still negative for 7 of 11 channels. The turnaround for Relevant retail is not widespread. It is primarily being driven by NonStore with a little help from Health Care, Electronics/Appliances  and Miscellaneous (includes Pet Stores). We still have a long way to go for a full recovery from the inflation tsunami.

Finally, here are the details and updated inflation rates for the CPIs used to calculate the impact of inflation on retail groups and channels. This includes special aggregate CPIs created with the instruction and guidance of personnel from the US BLS. I also researched data from the last Economic Census to review the share of sales by product category for the various channels to help in selecting what expenditures to include in specific aggregates. Of course, none of these specially created aggregates are 100% accurate but they are much closer than the overall CPI or available aggregates. The data also includes the CPI changes from 2021 to 2023 to show cumulative inflation.

Monthly 22>23 CPI changes of 0.2% or more are highlighted. (Green = lower; Pink = higher)

I’m sure that this list raises some questions. Here are some answers to some of the more obvious ones.

  1. Why is the group for Non-store different from the Internet?
    1. Non-store is not all internet. It also includes Fuel Oil Dealers, the non-motor fuel Energy Commodity.
  2. Why is there no Food at home included in Non-store or Internet?
    1. Online Grocery purchasing is becoming popular but almost all is from companies whose major business is brick ‘n mortar. These online sales are recorded under their primary channel.
  3. 6 Channels have the same CPI aggregate but represent a variety of business types.
    1. They also have a wide range of product types. Rather than try to build aggregates of a multitude of small expenditure categories, it seemed better to eliminate the biggest, influential groups that they don’t sell. This method is not perfect, but it is certainly closer than any existing aggregate.
  4. Why are Grocery and Supermarkets only tied to the Grocery CPI?
    1. According to the Economic Census, 76% of their sales comes from Grocery products. Grocery Products are the driver. The balance of their sales comes from a collection of a multitude of categories.
  5. What about Drug/Health Stores only being tied to Medical Commodities.
    1. An answer similar to the one for Grocery/Supermarkets. However, in this case Medical Commodities account for over 80% of these stores’ total sales.
  6. Why do SuperCtrs/Clubs and $ Stores have the same CPI?
    1. While the Big Stores sell much more fresh groceries, Groceries account for ¼ of $ Store sales. Both Channels generally offer most of the same product categories, but the actual product mix is different.


Petflation 2023 – July Update: Slows again, but still +8.7% vs 2022

Inflation is no longer a “headline” but it is still news. The YOY increases in the monthly Consumer Price Index (CPI) that were larger than we have seen in decades are definitely slowing. July prices grew 0.2% from June and the CPI was +3.2% vs 2022, up slightly from +3.0% last month – a pause in the decline. Grocery pricing continues to slow. After 12 straight months of double-digit YOY monthly percentage increases, grocery inflation is down to +3.6%, now with 5 consecutive months below 10%. As we have learned, even minor price changes can affect consumer pet spending, especially in the discretionary pet segments, so we will continue to publish monthly reports to track petflation as it evolves in the market.

Total Petflation was +4.1% in December 2021 while the overall CPI was +7.0%. The gap narrowed as Petflation accelerated and reached 96.7% of the national rate in June 2022. National inflation has slowed since July 2022, but Petflation has generally increased. It passed the National CPI in July 2022 and is now +8.7% in July, 2.7 times the national rate of 3.2%. We will look deeper into the numbers. 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 23 vs 22 which will include Pet Segments and relevant Human spending categories. Plus
    1. CPI change from the previous month.
    2. Inflation changes for recent years (21>22, 20>21, 19>20, 18>19)
    3. Total Inflation for the current month in 2023 vs 2019 and now vs 2021 to see the full inflation surge.
    4. Average annual Year Over Year inflation rate from 2019 to 2023
  • 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 July 2021 to July 2023. We will use December 2019 as a base number 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 yearend and those from 12 and 24 months earlier are included. This will give you some key waypoints. In July, Pet Products prices were down again from last month, but they increased in both Service segments.

In July 2021, the CPI was +6.2% and Pet prices were +2.8%. Like the U.S. CPI, Veterinary and Services prices generally inflated after mid-2020, while Food and Supplies prices generally deflated until late 2021. After that time, Petflation took off. Pet Food prices consistently increased but the other segments had mixed patterns until July 2022, when all increased. In Aug>Oct Petflation accelerated. In Nov>Dec, Services & Food prices continued to grow while Veterinary & Supplies prices stabilized. In Jan>Apr, prices grew every month except for 1 dip by Supplies. In May Products prices grew while Services slowed. In June & July this pattern was reversed. Petflation has been above the CPI since November 22.

  • U.S. CPI – The inflation rate was below 2% through 2020. It turned up in January 2021 and continued to grow until flattening out in Jul>Dec 2022. Prices turned up again in Jan>Jul but 36% of the overall 19.0% increase in the 43 months since December 2019 happened in the 6 months from January>June 2022 – 14% of the time.
  • Pet Food – Prices stayed generally below Dec 2019 levels from Apr 20 > Sep 21, when they turned up. There was a sharp lift in Dec 2021, and it continued until the Jun/Jul dip. 93% of the 22.9% increase has occurred since 2022.
  • Pet Supplies – Supplies prices were high in December 2019 due to the added tariffs. They then had a “deflated” roller coaster ride until mid-2021 when they returned to December 2019 prices and essentially stayed there until 2022. They turned up in January and hit an all-time high, beating the 2009 record. They plateaued from Feb> May, turned up in June, flattened in July, then turned up in Aug>Oct setting a new record. Prices stabilized in Nov>Dec but turned up in Jan>Feb, a new record. They fell in March, set a record in May, then fell in Jun>Jul.
  • Pet Services– Normally inflation is 2+%. Perhaps due to closures, prices increased at a lower rate in 2020. In 2021 consumer demand increased but there were fewer outlets. Inflation grew in 2021 with the biggest lift in Jan>Apr. Inflation was stronger in 2022 but it got on a rollercoaster in Mar>June. It turned up again July>Mar but the increase slowed to +0.1% in April. Prices fell -0.3% in May then turned up again in Jun>Jul.
  • Veterinary – Inflation has been pretty consistent in Veterinary. Prices turned up in March 2020 and grew through 2021. A pricing surge began in December 2021 which put them above the overall CPI. In May 2022 prices fell and stabilized in June causing them to briefly fall below the National CPI. However, prices turned up again and despite Oct & Dec dips they have stayed above the CPI since July. In 2023 prices slowly grew except for a dip in May.
  • Total Pet – The blending of patterns made Total Pet appear calm. In December 2021 the pricing surge began. In Mar>June 2022 the segments had ups & downs, but Petflation grew again from Jul>Nov. It slowed in December, turned up Jan>May, then fell in Jun>Jul. Except for 7 individual monthly dips, including 4 in Jun>Jul, prices in all segments have increased monthly in 2023. It has been ahead of the cumulative U.S. CPI since November 2022.

Next, we’ll turn our attention to the Year over Year inflation rate change for July and compare it to last month, last year and to previous years. We will also show total inflation from 21>23 & 19>23. Petflation was again below double digits at 8.7% in July but is still over 2.7 times the National rate. The chart will allow you to compare the inflation rates of 22>23 to 21>22 and other years but also see how much of the total inflation since 2019 came from the current pricing surge. Again, we’ve included some human categories to put the pet numbers into perspective.

Overall, Prices were +0.2% vs June and were up 3.2% vs July 2022. The Grocery increase is down again, to +3.6% from +4.7%, but still impacts consumers. Prices often rebound in July so it’s not surprising that only 3 of 9 categories had decreased prices from last month, compared to 5 in June 3 in May and 1 in April. Of the 6 categories with increases, 3 were from Pet – Veterinary, Services and Total. 3 of the 6 were over 0.3%, Haircuts: 0.6%; Groceries & Pet Services: 0.4%. The national YOY monthly inflation rate for July is up from June but is still much lower than the 21>22 rate. All but 3 categories – Veterinary, Non-Vet Services and Haircuts have a similar pattern. In the 2 Pet Categories the 22>23 inflation rate is higher than the 21>22 rate and is in fact the highest rate in any year since 2019. In our 2021>2023 measurement you also can see that over 67% of the cumulative inflation since 2019 occurred from 21>23 for all segments but Pet Services, Medical Services, Haircuts/Personal Services and the U.S. CPI. Note: These are service expenditures and show its increasing influence on the CPI. Pet Products are unique. The 21>23 inflation surge provided over 98% of the overall inflation since 2019. This happened because Pet Products prices were deflated in 2021.

  • U.S. CPI– Prices are +0.2% from June. The YOY increase rose to +3.2% from 3.0%. It peaked at +9.1% back in June 2022. The targeted inflation rate is <2% so we are still 50% higher than the target. This is the 1st lift after 12 straight declines. Not good news. It’s good that the current inflation rate is below 21>22 but the 21>23 rate is still 12.0%, 63% of total inflation since 2019. How many households “broke even” by increasing their income by 12% in 2 years?
  • Pet Food– Prices are -0.2% vs June and +10.6% vs July 2022. They are also 2.9 times the Food at Home inflation rate – not good news! The YOY increase of 10.6% is being measured against a time when prices were 11.1% above the 2019 level, but that increase is still an incredible 2.9 times the pre-pandemic 3.6% increase from 2018 to 2019. The 2021>2023 inflation surge generated 100% of the total 22.7% inflation since 2019.
  • Food at Home – Prices are up +0.4% from June. The monthly YOY increase is 3.6%, down from 4.7% in June and considerably lower than Jul>Sep 2022 when it exceeded 13%. The 25.7% Inflation for this category since 2019 is 34% more than the national CPI and remains 2nd to Veterinary. 67% of the inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>2023. The pattern mirrors the national CPI, but we should note that Grocery prices began inflating in 2020>2021 then the rate accelerated. It appears that the pandemic supply chain issues in Food which contributed to higher prices started early and foreshadowed problems in other categories and the overall CPI tsunami.
  • Pets & Supplies– Prices fell -0.5% from June, and they still have the lowest increase since 2019. They also stayed in last place in terms of the monthly increase vs last year for Pet Segments. As we noted earlier, prices were deflated for much of 2021 so the 2021>2023 inflation surge accounted for 96% of the total price increase since 2019. They reached an all-time high in October then prices deflated. 3 straight months of increases pushed them to a new record high in February. Prices fell in March, bounced back in Apr>May to a new record high then fell in June & July.
  • Veterinary Services – Prices are up 0.1% from June. They are +10.63% from 2022 and took over 1st place from Food (+10.61%) in the Pet Industry. Plus, they are still the leader in the increase since 2019 with 29.6% compared to Food at home at 25.7%. For Veterinary Services, relatively high annual inflation is the norm. The rate did increase during the current surge so 70% of the 4 years’ worth of inflation occurred in the 2 years from 2021>2023.
  • Medical Services – Prices turned sharply up at the start of the pandemic but then inflation slowed and fell to a low rate in 20>21. In July prices fell -0.3% from June and are -1.5% vs 2022, the only 22>23 deflation in any category. Medical Services are not a big part of the current surge as only 33% of the 2019>23 increase happened from 21>23.
  • Pet Services – Inflation slowed in 2020 but began to grow in 2021/2022. July 23 prices were up +0.4% from June and +6.3% vs 2022, which is the same as last month but much lower than 8.0% in March. Initially their inflation was tied to the current surge, but it may be becoming the norm as only 59% of the total since 2019 occurred from 21>23.
  • Haircuts/Other Personal Services – Prices are +0.6% from June and +5.3% from 2022, the 2nd highest rate since 2019. However, inflation has been rather consistent so just 46% of the inflation from 19>23 happened from 21>23.
  • Total Pet– Petflation is now 4% lower than the 21>22 rate, but 2.7 times the National CPI. For July, +8.7% is 2nd only to +9.1% in 2022. Vs June, Product Prices fell while Services increased so Total Pet was +0.03%. A June>July increase has happened in 19 of the last 26 years so a small increase was expected. Food & Veterinary are still the Petflation leaders, but only Service segments have a 22>23 rate above 21>22. Pet Food has been immune to inflation as Pet Parents are used to paying a lot. However, inflation can cause reduced purchase frequency in the other segments.

Now, let’s look at the YTD numbers

The increase from 2022 to 2023 is the biggest for 4 of 9 categories – All Pet. The 22>23 rate for Haircuts is slightly below 21>22. However, the Total CPI, Pet Supplies, Medical Services and Food at Home are significantly down from 21>22. The average annual increase since 2019 is 4.4% or more for all but Medical Services (3.0%) and Pet Supplies (2.7%).

  • U.S. CPI – The current increase is down 45% from 21>22 and only 4.5% more than the average increase from 2019>2023, but it’s 2.1 times the average annual increase from 2018>2021. 71% of the 18.9% inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>23. Inflation is a big problem that started recently.
  • Pet Food – Strong inflation continues with the highest 22>23 & 21>23 rates on the chart. Deflation in the 1st half of 2021 kept YTD prices low then prices surged in 2022. 95.2% of the inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>23.
  • Food at Home – The 2023 YTD inflation rate has slowed but still beat the U.S. CPI by 57%. You can see the impact of supply chain issues on the Grocery category as 74% of the inflation since 2019 occurred from 2021>23.
  • Pets & Pet Supplies – The inflation rate is down to 5.0% as prices fell again in July. Prices deflated significantly in in both 2020 & 2021 which helped to create a very unique situation. Prices are up 11.1% from 2019 but 114% of this increase happened from 2021>23. Prices are up 12.6% from their 2021 “bottom”.
  • Veterinary Services – They are still #1 in inflation since 2019 but they have only the 3rd highest rate since 2021. At +6.4%, they have the highest average annual inflation rate since 2019. Except for a sight slowing in 2020, prices have consistently increased since 2019. Regardless of the situation, strong Inflation is the norm in Veterinary Services.
  • Medical Services – Prices went up significantly at the beginning of the pandemic, but inflation slowed in 2021. In 2023 prices have been deflating and are now at a rate actually 77% below the pre-pandemic 2018>19 rate.
  • Pet Services – May 22 set a record for the biggest year over year monthly increase in history. Prices fell in June but began to grow again in July, reaching record highs in Sep>Apr. The January 2023 increase of 8.4% set a new record. YTD July again slipped a little to 6.9%. Interestingly, although the rates are not as high, they have the exact same annual inflation pattern as Veterinary. The Services segments in the Pet Industry are definitely unique.
  • Haircuts & Personal Services – The services segments, essential & non-essential were hit hardest by the pandemic. After a small decrease in March 22, prices turned up again. Since 2021 inflation has been a consistent 5+%, 90% higher than 18>19. Consumers are paying 21% more than in 2019, which usually reduces the purchase frequency.
  • Total Pet – There were two different patterns. After 2019, Prices in the Services segments continued to increase, and the rate grew as we moved into 2021. Pet products – Food and Supplies, took a different path. They 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 near yearend. In 2022, Food and Supplies prices turned sharply up. Food prices continued to climb until Jun/Jul 23. Supplies prices stabilized Apr>May, grew Jun>Oct, fell in Nov, rose in Dec>Feb, fell in Mar, rose in Apr>May then fell in Jun>Jul. The Services segments have also had ups & downs but are generally inflating. The net is a YTD Petflation rate vs 2022 of 10.0%, 2.2 times the National rate. In May 22 it was 5.8% below the CPI.

Petflation is still strong. Let’s put the numbers into perspective. Petflation slowed from 9.6% in June to 8.7% in July. This is below the record 12.0% set in November, but still 2nd highest for the month. More bad news is that 9 of the last 12 months have been over 10% and the current rate is still 5.4 times more than the 1.6% average rate from 2010>2021. It’s also 2.7 times the national rate. There is no doubt that the current pricing tsunami is a significant event in the history of the Pet Industry, but will it affect Pet Parents’ spending. In our demographic analysis of the annual Consumer Expenditure Survey which is conducted by the US BLS with help from the Census Bureau we have seen that Pet spending continues to move to higher income groups. However, the impact of inflation varies by segment. Supplies is the most affected as since 2009 many categories have become commoditized which makes them more price sensitive. Super Premium Food has become widespread because the perceived value has grown. Higher prices generally just push people to value shop. Veterinary prices have strongly inflated for years, resulting in a decrease in visit frequency. Spending in the Services segment is the most driven by higher incomes, so inflation is less impactful. This spending behavior of Pet Parents suggests that we should look a little deeper. Inflation is not just a singular event. It is cumulative. Total Pet Prices are up 8.7% from 2022 but they are up 18.5% from 2021 and 22.7% from 2019. That is a huge increase in a very short period. It puts tremendous monetary pressure on Pet Parents to prioritize their expenditures. We know that the needs of their pet children are always a high priority but let’s hope for a little relief – stabilized prices and even deflation. This is not likely in the Service segments but is definitely possible in products. It’s happened before. We need it again.

U.S. Pet Services Spending (Non-Vet) $10.87B (↑$3.43B): 2022 Mid-Year Update

In our analysis of Pet Food & Supplies Spending, we saw strong growth in the 2nd half of 2021 which sent Supplies to a record high and returned Food to near its Pandemic binge high. Both had continued but slowed growth in early 2022. Strong inflation may have been a factor. Now we turn our attention to Pet Services. The Mid-year numbers show that spending in this segment was $10.87B, up $3.43B (+46.2%) from the previous year. Up until 2018, this segment was known for consistent, small growth. In 2018, increased outlets and competitive prices brought on a wave of new users and spending increased +$1.95B. Spending remained near this new high normal until we reached 2020. Closures due to the pandemic drove spending down $1.73B by yearend, essentially returning to the level of 2017. In 2021 things opened up and spending began to rebound. This deserves a closer look. First, we’ll look at Services spending history since 2014.

Here are the 2022 Mid-Yr Details:

Mid-Year 2022: $10.87B; ↑$3.43B (+46.2%) vs Mid-Yr 2021

Jul > Dec 2021: ↑$1.66B

Jan > Jun 2022: ↑$1.77B

Pet Services is by far the smallest industry segment. However, except for 2010 and 2011, the period immediately following the Great Recession, it had consistent annual growth from 2000 through 2016. Spending in Food and Supplies have been on a roller coaster ride during that period. Services Spending more than tripled from 2000 to 2016, with an average annual growth rate of 7.6%. Spending in the Services Segment is the most discretionary in the industry and is more strongly skewed towards higher income households. Prior to the great recession, the inflation rate averaged 3.9% with no negative impact. The recession affected every industry segment, including Services. Consumers became more value conscious, especially in terms of discretionary spending. Services saw a slight drop in spending in both 2010 and 2011, but then the inflation rate fell to the 2+% range and the segment returned to more “normal” spending behavior. In mid-2016 inflation dropped below 2% and continued down to 1.1% by the end of 2017. This was primarily due to increased competition from free-standing businesses but also an increase in the number of Pet Stores and Veterinary Clinics offering pet services. While prices still went up slightly, there were deals to be had and consumers shopped for the best price. There was no decrease in purchase frequency. Consumers just paid less so spending fell slightly. In the 2nd half of 2017 spending turned up again. More Consumers began to take advantage of the value and convenience of the increased number of outlets offering Services. This deeper market penetration caused Services Spending to take off in 2018, up $1.95B, the biggest annual increase in history. Prices turned up again in the 1st half of 2019, +2.8% from 2018. However, Services spending inched up $0.09B. In the 2nd half of 2019 consumers Value Shopped again so spending fell -$0.19B. Then came 2020 and the pandemic. Many of these nonessential businesses were forced to close and spending fell precipitously, -$1.73B to $6.89B, about the same as yearend 2017. In 2021 things opened up again and spending bounced back, +$0.55B vs the 1st 6 months of 2020. Unlike Food and Supplies the increase continued to accelerate even into 2022, despite an inflation rate of 6+%. This produced a record 12-month increase and a new record high, $10.87B.

Let’s take a closer look at some key spending demographics – Age and Income.

In the graphs that follow we compare spending for the 12 months ending 6/30/22 to the previous 12 months. The graphs also include the 2021 yearend $, so you can see spending changes in the 2nd half of 2021 and the 1st half of 2022.

The first graph is for Income, the single most important factor in increased Pet Spending, especially in Services.

Here’s how you get the change for each half using the Over $70K group as an example:

Mid-yr Total Spending Change: $8.41B – $5.04B = Up +$3.37B (Note green outline = increase; red outline = decrease)

  • 2nd half of 2021: Subtract Mid-21 ($5.04B) from Total 2021 ($6.81B) = Spending was up $1.77B in 2nd half of 2021.
  • 1st half of 2022: Subtract Total 2021 ($6.81B) from Mid-22 ($8.41B) = Spending was up +$1.60B in 1st half of 2022.

  • With the Over/Under $100K measurement, you see how Services Spending is definitely skewed towards higher incomes. The halfway spending point is about $141K so about 20% of CUs spend 50% of Services $. However, spending in both the under & over $100K groups grew in both halves.
  • All groups $70K> had steady growth. The <$70K groups had basically 2 different patterns. Surprisingly, the <$30K had growth in both halves. The $30>70K groups had decreased spending despite a 2022 lift by $30>50K.
  • The $50>70K group had the worst performance. They had the biggest decrease, -20.9% and decreases in both halves. In fact, they were the only segment with decreased spending in the 1st half of 2022.
  • The over $150K group has 16.7% of the CUs but accounts for 46.2% of Services $. This is actually a much larger share than the 37.6% that they had in pre-pandemic 2019. The pandemic has increased the importance of this group.
  • Income, especially when it is over $150K, is by far the biggest factor in the discretionary spending in the Services segment so Services spending is more unbalanced in regard to income. The highest income groups are more driven by convenience than value so high inflation rates are likely to actually increase spending because of higher prices.

Now, Services’ Spending by Age Group.

  • Basically the <25 yr-olds spent less while everyone else spent more. Their spending fell slightly in both halves.
  • The 55>64 group had the biggest increase, up +$1.17B (+85.4%) and held on to the top spot in Services spending.
  • The 35>44 yr-olds spent +$0.79B more (+50.3%) and held on to the 2nd spot in spending.
  • The 45>54 yr olds had a small increase despite a drop in the 2nd half of 2021. They are #3. In Mid-2021 they were #1.
  • Although their lift was small this year, 25>34 yr-olds are the only group with consecutive mid-year increases.
  • The 65> groups were up $1.1B (+80.3%) with lifts in both halves, including a +$0.65B increase in the 1st half of 2022. The 65>74 yr-old Baby Boomers led the way – No Surprise.
  • All groups but <25 had a spending lift in the 1st half of 2022, a big change from Food & Supplies.

Now let’s look at what is happening in Pet Services spending at the start of 2022 across the whole range of demographics. In our final chart we will list the biggest $ moves, up and down by individual segments in 12 demographic categories. Remember, the lift in the 1st half of 2022 was +$1.77B vs 2021 and +$2.32B vs 2020.

2022 has started even better than 2021 as spending continues to grow. In 5 categories all segments spent more. Last year, only all income segments spent more. In 2020, there were 4 categories in which all segments spent less on Services. Also, the $ changes from the winners are overwhelmingly larger than the negatives of the losers. The +$1.77B increase in Pet Services came from 74 of 82 demographic segments (90%) spending more. Last year it was 78% and in 2020, 88% spent less. The strong recovery has become a growth tsunami, +58% from 2020 and even +23% from 2019.

The usual winners have overwhelmingly returned with only 2 minor surprises

  • The South
  • Tie: 55>64 & 65>74

Virtually all of the Losers were also expected. Here are the surprises:

  • Gen X
  • Northeast

The older groups, specifically Baby Boomers are driving the 1st half lift. The 55>74 yr-olds are essentially all Boomers. Most Boomer CUs are 2 people, with no kids. The younger groups had the best performance in the 1st half of 2021 and 2020. It appears that the Baby Boomers have at least briefly “taken back the torch”.

Services $ are at a record high and growing. Let’s review how we got to this point and speculate on what comes next.

Except for the trauma caused by the Great Recession which hit Services in 2010>11, from 2000 to 2016 the Services segment had slow but consistent growth. The number of outlets also was increasing. Services were gaining in popularity and many retail pet stores were looking for a competitive edge over the growing pet product sales of online retailers. Afterall, you can buy product, but you can’t get your dog groomed on the internet. By 2017 the number of outlets offering Pet Services had radically increased. This created a highly competitive market and the inflation rate dropped to near record lows. Value conscious consumers saw that deals were available, and they took advantage of the situation. However, they didn’t increase the frequency of purchase. They just paid less. This drove overall Pet Services spending down in the 1st half of 2017. The segment started to recover in the 2nd half but not enough to prevent the first annual decrease in Pet Services spending since 2011. However, it was a start. In 2018, more consumers started to recognize the convenience offered by more outlets. The latest big food upgrade was also winding down. The result was that Services started a deeper penetration into the market, especially in the younger groups. The <45 groups spent $1.47B more on Services in 2018, 74% of the total $1.95B increase in the segment. After such a big lift, a slight downturn in 2019 was not unexpected and it happened, -$0.1B. Then came 2020 and COVID. Although the consumer use of Services was becoming increasingly widespread, many Services outlets were deemed nonessential and were subject to pandemic restrictions and closures. Services Spending fell -$1.73B (-20.1%) in 2020 and nearly wiped out the big gain made in 2018.

In 2021, things opened up and Services spending began to rebound with a +$0.55B lift in the 1st half. This lift accelerated in the 2nd half and even the 1st half of 2022. Spending reached a new record high of $10.87B, with an annual growth rate of 7.3% since mid-yr 2019. That’s 43% higher than the 5.1% rate from 2009 to 2019. Pet Services have become an important option that is exercised by an increasing number of Pet Parents. However, much of the growth is increasingly being driven by higher incomes. There is some good news in this trend. Higher incomes are less negatively impacted by strong inflation. They buy the same amount, just pay more. This means that Services $ are likely to continue to grow.