Business ideas for 2019: Luxury pet care

Dote on dogs? Captivated by cats? Animal-loving entrepreneurs, make 2019 the year you start a luxury pet care business...

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We first called it in 2015, then again in 2016, and still our love of pets shows no signs of slowing down in the UK. While 2015 was all about pet sitting and 2016 was focused on posh pet food, in 2019 pampered pooches and coddled cats will be a business idea to take seriously.

This year we’re looking at luxury pet care, which is essentially childcare or deluxe pampering for pets. Whether that’s taking dogs for walks in the countryside, offering luxurious accommodation for cats while people go away or all-day dog-sitting services in a tailormade setting, many pet parents now need care services for their beloved furry little friends.

According to the Pet Data Report 2018 published by the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA), 45% of households in the UK own a pet, increasing to 53% for households that have children.

With figures like these, savvy would-be business owners could do well to tap into the potential returns that a niche, luxury pet care business could bring. Already popular overseas, we predict that 2019 is the year the trend will really kick off in the UK…

Why luxury pet care is a good business idea

People love their pets – fact. While old sayings like ‘a dog is a man’s best friend’ may still ring true, what has changed is our daily lives and routines, impacted by different working hours and 24/7 schedules.

Therefore, it’s not always possible for pet owners to be at home to care for their animals or take them for walks at the necessary times.

This is where luxury pet care businesses step in, offering time-poor but animal-loving people the option to place their pets in their care while they go to work or on holiday.

According to data published by Statista, £4.62bn was spent on pets and related products in the UK in 2017. This is a significant increase from 2005, when the expenditure was £2.55bn.

In 2016, the worldwide pet industry size was estimated to be worth $131.70bn. And pet products, as well as grooming and boarding services, were identified as some of the key drivers, according to data published by Grand View Research.

Meanwhile, other data from Statista shows the UK is one of the biggest pet markets in Europe; in 2017 the market was valued at approximately €5.1bn.

And IbisWorld found that when looking at grooming and boarding for pets specifically, the industry has experienced 6.8% growth, to reach a revenue of $8bn in the US in 2018.

So what does the British pet market look like at ground level? The PFMA found that there were 9 million dogs in the UK in 2018, which is an increase of 5% from the previous year.

It also found that the British cat population is at the highest level its been in five years and increased by 140,000, with 18% of the UK population having a cat.

But the ‘pet pound’ isn’t new – it’s been growing for the past few years. Back in 2016, Fortune covered the increasing humanisation of pets in the US, claiming that pets are basically people. Then in 2017 The Guardian documented the rise of upmarket pet care in the UK.

Fast forward to 2018, and the luxury pet care trend is still going strong, with the BBC reporting on the excesses of the ‘pooch pound’, suggesting some pet owners could be going overboard with the way they lavishly treat their animals. And in the same year, Business Insider even stated that pet care is a recession-proof industry.

While luxury pet care may be a topic of debate in newspaper and digital publications, elsewhere on the internet the trend continues to gain popularity. This is especially the case on social media, of which there are many accounts that document the luxurious existences of pets around the world.

Some examples include dog ‘celebrities’ like Marcel Le Corgi, whose Instagram account currently has 98k followers. And let’s not forget our feline friends too: at the time of writing, the Twitter account of cat blog Katzenworld has 37.2k followers.

In 2014, Mariah Carey reportedly spent £28,000 on her dogs, including first class travel, chauffeur-driven cars and spa treatments and Paris Hilton is said to have built a dog-size mansion for her dogs to live in.

Yet it’s not only celebrities who are splashing the cash on premium services for their pets.

Market trend reporter Mintel found that 51% of pet care buyers (deemed as those customers who have made purchases relating to pet care products or services in the 12 months prior to May 2018), would prefer to reduce spending on themselves than on their pets.

Whether you’re thinking about how to start your own pet grooming business, or are interested in a more specialist area of the sector, we’re excited to see what 2019 will bring for start-ups who launch in the sector – discover some potential business opportunities below!

Luxury pet care business opportunities

The opening of the Love Ur Dog hotel – a luxury boutique hotel for dogs – in the Wirral in 2018 could pave the way for other like-minded entrepreneurs to start a hotel business for dogs in other parts of the country. This concept could also be applied to other pets too, such as similarly luxurious hotels for cats, guinea pigs and rabbits, for example.

With the continued popularity of smart home assistants, it was only a matter of time until Alexa skills rolled over into other industries too. If you’re tech-savvy and entrepreneurial, you could tap into the pet tech trend and apply your coding skills to make an app or smart assistant specifically for pets. One example of this is the PawSquad Pet Health Club, which offers a subscription service for online vet appointments.

Or what about apps that provide virtual pet care? Petcube has cameras that allow people to use their smartphone to interact with their pets even while they’re out, so that they don’t miss playtime or treats.

And DOGTV is an app that provides TV content specifically for dogs, providing an alternative way to keep your pets company while you’re out.

Thinking about other areas of pet or pet owners lives’ that could benefit from tech disruption could prove lucrative.

Look overseas for inspiration too. For example, the US-based Natural Dog Company offers edible vegan healing balms for dogs’ skin conditions made from natural, organic ingredients.

British entrepreneurs wondering how to set up a dog grooming business could take this one step further and strike out into the market with a luxurious plant-based pet product – and combine two of our business ideas for 2019 into one!

Alternatively, you could take your business to your customers with a mobile business, such as an on-the-go dog grooming service.

Yet physical (or virtual) care are just some elements of an animal’s well-being. For example, a really niche luxury pet care business opportunity could be to become a freelance pet psychologist or behavioural counsellor. You could offer services to reduce anxiety or other pet-related mental health concerns – providing you have the necessary qualifications or training to do so.

And how will all these special moments be documented but with plenty of photos? This is where another business opportunity – running your own pet photography business – could pay off, offering pet parents a way to indulge and pamper their animals with a luxurious photo shoot.

Finally, you could start your own dog day care centre – think of it as a nursery for dogs, providing care facilities for canines while their humans are at work. Within this, it could also be possible to offer dog-walking services, training sessions and holiday boarding – all with a VIP (that’s ‘very important pooch’) ethos.

Insider opinion

Sara White, founder of StyleTails, and pet trend content contributor for WGSN, comments:

“Pets have indisputably become a central part of the modern family. Many younger people, particularly millennials, consider themselves to be ‘pet parents' rather than ‘pet owners'.

“Their furry friend is an integral part of their life, and an extension of their own personal style and lifestyle. Therefore, they’re willing to spend big to keep their pet happy, healthy and looking good.

“This has created a space for the luxury pet care industry to emerge. While luxury pet care can take many forms, the overarching concept is that the level of product or service being provided is of an exceptionally high standard; in some cases, a human rather than animal standard.

“This could be a luxury pet hotel, where unlike kennels or boarding facilities, pets have their own rooms, comfy beds, gourmet food and custom diets, and take part in training and photo shoots during their stay.

“Or it could be a high-end grooming salon, where dogs can indulge in facials, massage and even reiki.

“The trend also extends to luxury products, like designer fashion, furniture and accessories for pets, which meet the owner's exacting standards in terms of quality and style.

“The growing humanisation of pets, particularly among the younger generation who are child-free with disposable income, means that this trend is set to continue.

“There's a range of ways to serve this market of devoted and discerning pet parents, and meet their every expectation when it comes to premium products and services.

“When I launched StyleTails back in 2012, I could see a niche for pet parents who wanted beautifully designed and well-made products for their pets. There were a limited number of products meeting those criteria at that particular time.

“When I look around now, I see an explosion in the number of designer brands and premium services available for pets – it's hard to keep up! As pets continue their transition from animals to ‘furkids', demand for the very best products and services will follow.”

Published Jan 2019

Scarlett writes for the energy and HR sections of the site, as well as managing the Just Started profiles. Scarlett is passionate about championing equality and sustainability in business.

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