Video: Pet profits

By Nanette Hansen Anchor
updated 2/15/2005 4:39:43 PM ET 2005-02-15T21:39:43

The 129th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show is underway in New York City. And for Willow, a champion Rhodesian Ridgeback, the road from Wyckoff, N.J. to Madison Square Garden is a long and expensive trip.

"She's like the perfect daughter: the valedictorian from Yale who wins beauty pageants and graduated Harvard," said her owner, Janice Wolf.

Don’t laugh. Serious breeders like Wolf spend the equivalent of an Ivy League education to get their dog to Westminster. There are show entry costs, fees for handlers — often $100 a pop — ad campaigns, and weekly travel and hotel bills. It adds up fast.

And whether a show dog or family member, America's love affair with pets has created a $34 billion dollar a year industry — making it the 6th largest in the U.S., bigger than the toy industry or the candy industry.

Slideshow: Pooch pageant Things like pet food, grooming services and live pets helped Petco boost sales by 12 percent in 2004 — in excess of $1.6 million dollars. But it's more than just traditional pet companies getting into the game

So why are so many American corporations trying to take a bite out of the pet industry?  In a word: growth.  In the past ten years, annual sales have more than doubled — pretty much independent of how the economy has been performing.

"If it's a product that's hot and sells well with humans, you're starting to see that make an entry into the pet industry," said Bob Vetere, managing director of the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association.

So companies like Gucci, Chanel, Paul Mitchell, Hasbro, Omaha Steaks, Old Navy — even Harley Davidson — now offer a line of pet products, from beds to doggie shampoos to clothing.

And big pharmaceutical companies like Merck, Pfizer, Novartis, and Medpointe's Lambert Kay are also jumping into the industry — not just with medications and vaccines but with over the counter products as well.

“Between over the counter additives, supplements, vitamins and prescriptions, that's about a $3.2 billion piece of this business," said Vetere.

With dogs and cats found in one out of three U.S. households, pets now outnumber the human population in America. That means you can expect continued growth for the pet industry — from pet-friendly hotels to other companies traditionally known for human products, as business goes to the dogs … and cats. 

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