Is the Pet Industry Recession Proof?

April 29, 2009

Is the pet industry recession-proof? So far, New Yorkers still spending on pets

BY Lauren Johnston

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Updated Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 10:42 AM New Yorkers are finding all sorts of ways to save their pennies as the economy worsens – but so far it seems Fluffy and Fido have been spared the household budget cuts.

Americans spent $43.2 billion on their animals in 2008 and are on track to shell out $45.4 in 2009, according to a report from the American Pet Products Association.
 
Calls to several of the city’s high-end pet boutiques confirmed that (for the most part) sales for toys, treats and grooming are holding steady though the shopping lists these days are not quite as extravagant.

For example, the Upper East Side deluxe boutique Le Chien has not sold any of its made-to-order $6,500 pet cabanas lately – and even had a client cancel an order – but they are moving tons of toys and treats.

“People are not exactly buying the mink throws or alligator collars, but they are still coming for the grooming every week and the toys,” said Edward Alava, who has been a manager at the shop for more than a decade.
 
Grooming at Le Chien starts at $125 and most patrons add on services like hot oil skin treatments and teeth-cleaning.
 
He’s also had a steady stream of long-distance business from clients who may have been laid off and are spending longer periods of time at their country homes instead of going to work in the city.

“A lot of people are asking me to set up a store in the Hamptons,” he said.

Chad Conway, co-owner of the Manhattan’s three tony Canine Styles shops, said his grooming business has remained robust as a matter of practicality – and hygiene.

“No matter what they’re going through in their lives, people are not going to deal with a dirty dog,” he said – adding that his clients report they are traveling less to save money and have the extra cash to  <span class=”fullpost”>splurge a bit on their furry friends.

The cheapest haircut at Canine Styles is $100 and grooming packages go up to $225.

And he can’t say for sure – but Conway suspects some clients are continuing to spoil their pets even after they’ve been hit with a pink slip

“There are people we never used to see – who were just names on the appointment book – and the nanny or butler picked up the dog, but now we see the owner,” he said.

Denise Paradiso – who handles merchandising at the East Side deluxe boarding house The Ritzy Canine – said her daycare profits have remained strong even as some clients have lost their jobs and now spend the day at home.

Private rooms for pets there go for up to $175 per night and daycare packages range from about $45 per day to between $550 and $660 for a 20-day package.

“We’ve seen people stretch their daycare package a little bit. People say, ‘I may have to only come three days a week,’ because they’ve gotten laid off, but they are not giving that up,” Paradiso said.

The Ritzy Canine hosts between 50 to 65 daycare dogs each day, she said. At Didi’s Dog Boutique in DUMBO, patrons might make a beeline for the sale bin, but they are still coming, said Felix Fung, who runs the shop with his wife Sonia.

Fung described his shop as “cheap chic,” and said his regular clients continued coming even after the shop left its home on the Bowery last year and crossed the East River to set up in Brooklyn.

Alava says customers at Le Chien have not only continued to shop for their pets – they’ve talked about adding pets to their animal broods.

And he said he’s not surprised that pet shops haven’t suffered financially – at least so far.

“Times are tough, but pets come first. Your best friend comes first,” he said. </span>

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