Total Pet spending fell slightly to $78.44B in 2019, a $0.16B (-0.2%) decrease from 2018. The Supplies segment was  the driving force in this decrease as spending dropped to $16.81B, down $2.98B (-15.1%). (Note: All numbers in this report come from or are calculated by using data from the US BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys)

After flat spending in the 2nd half of 2018, spending turned sharply down in the 1st half of 2019 then continued to decline in the 2nd half. 2019 wiped out 60% of a 24 month $5B gain in this segment. In this report we’ll “drill down” into the data to try to determine what and who are “behind” the huge drop in 2019 Pet Supplies Spending.

In 2019, the average household spent $127.15 on Supplies, down 15.6% from $150.62 in 2018. (Note: A 2019 Pet CU (67%) Spent $189.78) This doesn’t exactly match the -15.1% total $ decrease. Here are the specific details:

  • 0.6% more CU’s
  • Spent 2.9% less $
  • 13.1% less often

Let’s start with a visual overview. The chart below shows recent Supplies spending history.

Since the great recession, spending trends in the Supplies segment have been all about price – the CPI. Although many supplies are needed by Pet Parents, when they are bought and how much you spend is often discretionary. Additionally, many of the product categories in this segment are now considered commodities, so price is the main driver behind consumer purchasing behavior. When prices fall, consumers are more likely to buy more. When they go up, consumers spend less and/or buy less frequently.

2014 was the third consecutive year of deflation in Supplies as prices reached a level not seen since 2007. Consumers responded with a spending increase of over $2B. Prices stabilized and then moved up in 2015.

In 2015 we saw how the discretionary aspect of the Supplies segment can impact spending in another way. Consumers spent $5.4B for a food upgrade and cut back on Supplies – swapping $. This, in conjunction with inflation, caused supplies to suffer as consumers spent 4.1% less, but they bought 10% less often. That drop in purchase frequency drove $1.6B (78%) of the $2.1B decrease in Supplies spending.

In 2016, supplies’ prices flattened out and consumers value shopped for their upgraded food. Supplies spending stabilized and began to increase in the second half. In 2017 supplies prices deflated, reaching a new post-recession low. The consumers responded with a huge $2.74B increase in Supplies spending that was widespread across demographic segments. An important factor in the lift was an increase in purchase frequency which was within 5% of the 2014 rate.

In 2018 prices started to move up in April and rapidly increased later in the year due to the impact of new tariffs. By December, Supplies prices were 3.3% higher than a year ago. This explains the initial growth and pull back in spending.

In 2019 we saw the full impact of the tariffs. Prices continued to increase. By yearend they were up 5.7% from the Spring of 2018 and spending plummeted -$2.98B. The major factor in the drop was a 13.1% decrease in purchasing frequency.

That gives us an overview of the situation. Now let’s look at the “who” behind the numbers. First, we’ll look at spending by income level, the most influential demographic in Pet Spending.

National: $127.15 per CU (-15.6%) – $16.81B – Down $2.98B (-15.1%).

In 2019 the Supplies spending decrease was widespread across income groups.

  • <$30K (27.0% of CU’s)- $56.56 per CU (-19.3%) $2.02B– Down $0.63B (-23.6%). This group is very price sensitive as is evidenced by the big drop in CU spending. This, in combination with 5% fewer CUs put them below 2015 $.
  • $30K>70K (31.5% of CU’s)- $102.57 per CU (-20.7%) $4.27B- Down $0.99 (-18.8%). This big, lower income group closely matches both the national pattern and that of the $150K+ group. The tariff prices had a big impact. Until 2019 they were the leader in Total Supplies Spending $.
  • $70>$100K (14.5% of CU’s) – $149.41 per CU (-1.0%) – $2.86B- Down $0.02B (-0.8%). This middle-income group has been very consistent in Supplies spending which continued in 2019, as they had by far the smallest decrease.
  • $100K>$150K (13.8% of CU’s) – $171.00 per CU (-22.2%) – $3.12B- Down $0.67B (-17.7%). This higher income group is also price sensitive as they had the biggest % drop in CU spending which was mitigated by 6% more CUs.
  • $150K> (13.3% of CU’s) – $259.55 /CU (-17.1%) – $4.55B- Down $0.67B (-12.9%). The $150>199K group had the biggest drop, but $200K+ CUs also spent less. Money matters in Supplies, but strong inflation can impact anyone.

The $70>99K group had a very small decrease and the $30>39K group actually spent $0.09B more on Supplies. However, 2019 demonstrated that price is a key factor to almost everyone in a discretionary segment like Supplies.

Now, we’ll look at spending by Age Group.

National: $127.15 per CU (-15.6%) – $16.81B – Down $2.98B (-15.1%).

It’s simple. All groups over 25 yrs old spent less on Supplies. The under 25, “Gen Z” CUs spent more. Here are the details.

  • 55>64 (18.6% of CU’s) $162.59 /CU (-8.4%) – $3.99B – Down $0.35B (-8.1%). In 2017 these Boomers found the lowest Supplies prices since 2007 very alluring. They got on board. When prices turned sharply up in the 2nd half of 2018, the growth stalled. Spending fell in 2019 as 0.3% more CU’s spent 2.9% more on Supplies, 11.0% less often. However, they were the only group to spend more per transaction and became #1 in Total Supplies $.
  • 45>54 (16.8% of CU’s) $168.54 per CU (-13.8%) – $3.76BDown $0.75B (-16.7%). Until 2019, this highest income age group had been the leader in Supplies spending since 2007. Fewer CU’s (-3.3%) spent 5.6% less on supplies, 8.7% less often. They did have the smallest drop in frequency, but fewer CUs cost them the top $ spot.
  • 35>44 (16.9% of CU’s) $144.96 per CU (-21.3%) – $3.24B; Down $0.82B (-20.1%) This group is second in income and overall expenditures but also has the biggest families. After 3 strong years, the sharply rising prices had a big impact, especially in frequency. 1.5% more CU’s spent 4.3% less $, 17.8% less often.
  • 25<34 (16.1% of CU’s) $102.62 per CU (-22.7%) – $2.18B; Down $0.65B (-22.9%). After trading Supplies $ for upgraded Food and Vet Care in 2016, these Millennials turned their attention back to Supplies. The rising prices hit them hard and 2019 spending is below 2015. 0.3% fewer CU’s spent 8.9% less on supplies, 15.1% less often.
  • 65>74 (14.9% of CU’s) $94.11 per CU (-22.9%) – $1.86B –Down $0.50B (-21.2%). This older group is very price sensitive. When prices turned up in 2018, they immediately cut back on spending. This continued into 2019 and they are also now below 2015 $. 2.1% more CU’s spent 8.8% less, 15.4% less often.
  • 75> (11.2% of CU’s) $62.72 per CU (-17.3%) – $0.93B, Down $0.11B (-10.8%). This group is truly price sensitive as they spend 12% more than they earn. They began to cut back on spending in the 2nd half of 2018 and this behavior continued throughout 2019. 7.9% more CU’s spent 3.0% less, 14.8% less often.
  • <25 (5.5% of CUs) $118.29/CU (+34.1%) $0.87B- Up $0.20B (+29.5%) 3.4% fewer CUs spent 26.9% more $, 5.7% more often. The lift came in the 2nd half and may be due to indulgence. They spent more on Supplies than Food.

The impact of the price increase was also readily apparent in this category. Only the smallest group. <25 yrs, spent more.

Next, let’s take a look at some other key demographic “movers” in 2019 Pet Supplies Spending. The segments that are outlined in black “flipped” from 1st to last or vice versa from 2018. The red outline stayed the same.

The widespread impact of the increased prices due to the added tariffs is immediately apparent. In 9 of the 12 demographic categories all segments spent less on Supplies in 2019. It gets even worse. There are 96 separate segments in the complete demographic database. The 3 “winning” segments with plus $ on the chart are the only positives in the entire group. That means that 96.9% of all demographic segments spent less on Supplies in 2019.

6 Segments flipped from first to last and there are other typical big spenders also on the bottom, like Managers & Professionals, Gen X and 2 person CUs.

On the “winning” side there are some extreme rarities like those with no High School Diploma, Service Workers, African Americans, under 25 years old and “Other” Married Couples. The $30>39K group is an occasional winner because this is the average income of Retirees. However, in 2019 Retirees spent 19.5% less on Supplies.

There is really no in depth analysis needed. The skyrocketing “Tarifflation” drove Supplies Spending down across all of America. According to US BLS historical data, Supplies spending has decreased in 15 years since 1984. However, the $2.98B drop in 2019 is the biggest in history, by 21%. Tariffs are paid for by American consumers, except when they choose not to buy or slow their frequency, then American businesses pay.