August 9, 2009
Sit, stay, get paid: Love dogs? Crazy about cats? Consider pet industry sales jobs
Special to NWjobs
At a time when many retail sales employers are shedding jobs in a tight economy, applicants sniffing around the pet products industry for sales-related work could be barking up the right hiring tree.
From entry-level retail positions to opportunities in innovative puppy and kitten health insurance, employment in the pet world is drawing animal lovers who specialize in sales.
Last year, while consumers across the country were keeping a tight leash on their wallets, spending on pets grew 3-5 percent, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This comes as no surprise to Seattle Animal Control executive director Don Jordan.
“Pets are big business in Seattle,” Jordan says. “The fact that the city of Seattle had to begin regulating doggy day cares a few years ago just proves how popular pets are here,” says Jordan. “Seattleites view their pets as their companion and they want to take good care of them. There are people out there who take better care of their pets than they do of themselves.”
Nationwide, puppy (and kitty) love is one of the reasons sales in the pet industry have risen at least $2 billion annually in each of the past four years, the APPA reports. According to the 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 71.4 million homes. An Associated Press-Petside.com poll released last month found that half of all American pet owners consider their pets as much a part of the family as any other person in the household.
Given Seattle’s ranking in 2007 as one of the top five dog-friendly cities in the country by the Humane Society of the United States, many pet lovers consider it easier to own and care for their furry friends here than in other parts of the country.
Figures from the Washington State Employment Security Department only loosely track workforce counts in the pet industry, but they do offer one insight: While employment in the miscellaneous retail sector statewide declined from 2005 to 2007, hiring at pet stores and pet-product suppliers grew by nearly 400 jobs during the same two-year span. Although full-year figures for 2008 aren’t yet available, similar growth continued during the first three quarters of last year.
U.S. pet spending rises
Expenditures (in billions) per year
2009: $45.4 (estimated)
Source: American Pet Products Association
Other connections between pet industry sales and resulting jobs come from pet companies themselves. At specialty retailer Petco, corporate spokeswoman Kalen Smith predicts, “As the pet category continues to grow, we will also continue to grow.
“We’ve grown faster than the pet category itself over the past several years, but we still plan to open more new stores in 2009,” she adds. “As new stores continue to open up this year, we will need to hire more associates. Internally, we continue to improve our processes and develop our leaders to become more competitive through the economic downturn.”
In fact, Petco recently celebrated the grand opening of its newest Washington state store in Poulsbo, Kitsap County. It’s one of 29 new Petco stores nationwide. PetSmart has 40 new stores planned for this year.
Wal-Mart, too, is grooming employees to handle more pet sales. Many of its stores have expanded pet-care sections. And at PetSmart, new overnight PetsHotel and Doggie Day Camp services are being added at select stores to drive consumer traffic.
Other companies are purring over pet-product sales, too. Despite the recession, pet-food sales grew 5.5 percent nationwide to nearly $17 billion in 2008, according to a recent report from Packaged Facts.
“People will find other ways to cut back,” Jordan says. “The last thing they want to do is give up their pet.”
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