This article was excerpted from Pet Businesses, a startup guide available from SmallBizBooks.com .
The urge to splurge on pet clothes, toys and other goodies has been around for awhile now. But ever since Hollywood starlets started carrying their pooches around in designer bags and tucking them in to sleep under silk comforters on custom-made beds (and getting press for doing so), the upscale pet-products industry has exploded. Doting owners can now adorn their pets with rhinestone tiaras, pearl collars and cashmere coats. They can wheel them around in luxury strollers or tuck them into glove-soft leather totes.
According to Pet Age magazine, more than six out of 10 U.S. households, or 64.2 million, own at least one pet. Not all these households have designer pet strollers in the driveway or marabou-trimmed beds in the master bedroom, but enough people were buying products to pamper their pooches and kitties to make the pet-supplies industry a $5.86 billion market in 2003. Market research company Business Communications Co. predicts that by 2008, pet supplies will be a $7.05 billion industry, with an average growth rate of 3.8 percent. And while there are no statistics available specifically on the upscale pet-products industry, it's safe to say that the people who are selling these products are taking a big bite out of that prosperous market.
Upscale pet products run the gamut from the sublime to the sometimes ridiculous. There are ferret hammocks, faux mink dog blankets and cashmere sweaters, Halloween costumes and Santa Suits, and plush beds shaped like Faberge eggs. Other upscale pet products now in demand include jewelry (both barrettes and necklaces), wedding dresses and tuxedos, fashion eyewear, elaborate cat condos, stairs and ramps for elderly pets, pet toys and massagers, apparel (sweaters, dresses and T-shirts), collars and leashes.
Despite the proliferation of upscale pet products, this really is an industry in its infancy. While there have always been a lot of companies that sold pet products, as recently as 2001 there were very few companies offering upscale pet are. Since then, there has been an explosion in the number of companies that sell these pricey products, which has made the industry much more competitive. But if you're a committed pet lover who believes there's a need for what some may consider fripperies, this is an industry in which you can make a good living.
As with a pet-food business, it's possible to sell products to the public entirely through a website. But you could also sell exclusively to retail outlets like pet boutiques or pet stores. Or you can open your own retail location. If you establish a store and your product mix is truly exclusive and expensive, you'll probably be more successful if you open in a resort area, in or near an upscale neighborhood (can you say, "Rodeo Drive?"), or in an exclusive mall. The rent in the locations may be very pricey, but it will be worth it when you reach people with a lot of discretionary income and the desire to lavish it on their best friend(s).
For more information on starting your own upscale pet products business, plus four other pet businesses, check out our guide on SmallBizBooks.com .