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The High Cost of Halloween for Pets

2 minute read
Laura Stampler

Here’s the thing about pet costumes: by the time you find yourself asking, Is it too much? the answer is probably yes. That hasn’t stopped pet owners from wondering, Is the Angry Birds onesie already passé? or Does the Madonna gold lamé cone bra send the wrong message? The National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend $330 million on Halloween outfits for their pets this year, up $110 million from 2010. In the U.S., the overall pet economy–which grew faster than the GDP this year–is estimated to be worth $55.5 billion in sales, according to the American Pet Products Association. The question is why.

Not only is pet ownership on the rise; it’s also morphing. Clinton Sanders, a University of Connecticut sociologist who specializes in pet culture, says research shows that “people are more likely to carry pictures of their dogs in their wallets than pictures of their children.” He adds that Internet humor and viral videos that trade on cute animals likely help sales. Growing numbers of retirees and couples that delay having children are also driving greater spending on animals, says Colin Jerolmack, an assistant sociology professor at New York University. The recovery in consumer spending is probably helping too.

Retailers are convinced there’s a gold rush in threads for animals. Meijer, a Midwestern chain, began carrying animal costumes online and in stores two years ago, after a push by pet lovers within the company. Though the firm won’t reveal exact sales figures, it claims the move has been profitable. On the basis of search traffic, vice president of e-commerce Liwanag Ojala says she is anticipating a 50% increase in Meijer’s sales of pet costumes compared with last year. “Our best-selling pet costume right now is a banana,” Ojala says. “Last year’s best-selling costume on the website was also a banana, but for a human.”

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