As the cold darkness of winter set in and the calendar flipped to a second year of Covid life, Kaite Giordano, a fourth-grade teacher in New York City and the mother of seven-year-old James, made a major decision. To break free from the doldrums, their Brooklyn household needed to expand.
And so James got a new bestie: Chewie, a Cavapoo named after everyone’s favorite Wookie—not the online pet supply juggernaut. Although Giordano had never owned a dog before and wasn’t really a pet person, she thought a four-legged friend was just what the family needed. “The loneliness and isolation of the pandemic has been so hard,” she says. “I thought a dog could help offer emotional support for both of us.” So far, she says, Chewie has been a miracle worker. “James used to have trouble falling asleep, his mind racing for two hours with anxiety, and now he cuddles up with Chewie, and he’s out cold in 10 minutes,” Giordano says. “On the ride home from picking up the puppy, he said, ‘I just always wanted to have a friend during coronavirus to spend time and play with, and now I do.’”
Kaite and James are hardly alone. The pandemic puppy boom is real — and it’s rapidly transforming the pet product industry. It’s a sector that has already seen a lot of growth: Sales of pet food and supplies are up 450% over the past 25 years, notes David Lummis, senior pet market analyst for Packaged Facts.
But until now, growth in the industry was primarily due to higher-priced products, as owners ponied up for increasingly lavish organic dog treats, pet fashions, and dog mansions. “The pet market has been mature for a long time, but manufacturers and retailers realized they could charge a lot more for higher-quality products as part of the trend that we call ‘pets as family,’” Lummis says. “They are parents as opposed to owners.”