CONWAY – The U.S. pet industry is estimated to have grown from $ 97.5 billion in 2019 to $ 99 billion in 2020, and the pandemic has obviously played a big role in more people adopting pets.
That’s an astonishing growth of $ 1.5 billion in one year.
It was a year in which pet owners splurged on everything from pet food and treats to pet sitters, toys and travel, according to PetPedia.
This trend also included Conway.
“I think people who don’t travel far and come here in the area, they bring their pets with them,” said Steve Iannuzzi, owner of Percy Paws LLC, a boutique selling pet accessories and gifts. company in Settlers Green, the shopping center of North Conway.
Iannuzzi, who opened the store three years ago, said that because he didn’t sell pet food, the business was deemed “non-essential” by the state and had to shut down for three months at the start of the pandemic.
“It was pretty tough and we didn’t know if we would get out of it,” Iannuzzi said this week. “But we are thankful that we did it and are still here.”
He said summer 2020 was “OK, given that we were coming out of a stop”. When a return to normal occurred when COVID-19 vaccines became available, business took off – and continued to rise.
“This year has been really good, better than expected,” he said, explaining that with so many people staying at home to work remotely during the pandemic, people decided that now is the time to have a dog.
“So that was a big part of it – and we’ve seen a lot of first-time dog owners come into our store and tell us their stories,” Iannuzzi said.
“Another aspect is that this is our third year and they now know where we are here at Settlers Green,” he added.
Meanwhile, Kathy and Brian Ahearn, co-owners of Four Your Paws Only, North Conway’s independent pet shop and bakery, recently celebrated their 27th anniversary.
Their store sells pet food and they said it was difficult to keep up with the demand.
“When we reopened in May 2020 for in-store shopping, we were busier than ever,” said Brian. “We are now back to a semi-normal situation and we are doing very well, and we are fortunate to have a full complement of 12 full-time employees and one part-time employee. “
They’ve set up curbside delivery during the shutdown, and although they’ve had to shut down some events like puppy playgroups, Brian says they want to start this socializing moment again soon.
He said some dog owners had requested the return of this service because many animals, like their owners, were forced to stay at home during much of the pandemic and began to lose their socialization skills and to forget how to behave with other dogs and humans.
“And now that people are going back to work (in person), their dogs have separation anxiety because they’re home alone,” Kathy said. “People have asked a lot of questions about the puppy playgroup again and we hope to start it again soon.”
As animal lovers, they were excited to see people helping local animal shelters such as Harvest Hills and Conway Area Humane Society by adopting pets and giving them homes.
“People thought being home in quarantine was a great time to adopt a pet – and they were using shelters, which was great,” Brian said.
Scott Badger, co-founder / co-owner of LupinePet, an East Conway company that makes pet collars and other products, said after the shutdown, when most employees were put on leave, things are now buzzing as they try to keep up with the demand.
Once they were able to get their employees back, business started to pick up, and now it has doubled and sometimes almost tripled from their normal orders on the website.
“You’ve probably read how many retailers are saying that the pandemic in general has got things done by about 10 years in terms of buying products online? Said Badger.
“The first reason: because they had to. And the second: they had to be home and they were bored, so why not buy online?
Jeweler Karen Twombly, owner of Silver Paw Pet Tags in Brownfield, Maine, also saw her stainless steel engraved label business take off, with all orders placed on silverpawtags.com.
She obtained a COVID-related PPP loan from the SBA for $ 6,000 in April 2020.
“After months of peril, yes, from May of last year there were huge increases in sales for me, and I attribute that to more people getting dogs. and puppies at shelters and breeders, ”Twombly said.
“January of this year has been a record for me in terms of monthly sales,” Twombly said.
Animal health care has also seen an increase in demand as more and more people have pets. Local veterinary services had to adapt to the way they served their patients, allowing clients to drop their pets off at the curb, from where clinical staff would bring them inside for care.
Eileen Lippe de Bartlett, president of the Rozzie May Animal Alliance, said her non-profit sterilization / sterilization clinic had just opened in its then new location on Hobbs Street in Conway Village when the COVID-19 pandemic hit .
After a 10 week shutdown, they were able to reopen with new protocols to ensure everyone’s safety.
“The biggest challenge for us has been the missed fundraising opportunities as we rely totally on the community,” she said, noting that she, her board and staff were grateful for the benefit concert given the alliance of Sandwich artist John Davidson at the start of its summer season.
“He was wonderful with us – he has a shelter dog himself, so he became very interested in our work,” Lippe said.
She added that the association has recently taken a new step. “Last month, since our inception in 2007, we reached the mark of 22,000 spayed and neutered animals, so we’re very proud of that. “
Dr Steve Caffrey of Fryeburg Veterinary Hospital said that because they were forced to space out their appointments during the height of the pandemic, there has been a bit of slack, but people are now making up for it. .
“People are caught up with their dates, and with the increase in adoptions, this has been the bus,” Caffrey said.
“We had stopped wearing masks but now we are back to wearing them (due to the Delta variant cases of the coronavirus),” Caffrey said, adding: “We are also always ready to do a sidewalk service where the people drop off their animals and wait outside. “
Dr Sheri Cassell of Conway Veterinary Care said the increased demand is a combination of all new pet owners as well as many new people in the valley.
She said things got so busy that her office had to stop taking new patients.
“We have changed our schedule to be able to see more patients, but we are still struggling to meet demand. I would remind people to be kind and understanding because they work very, very hard to try to keep up with the demand, ”said Cassell, who bought the practice in 2006 and moved it to her new premises in the old one. Journey church when the church built a new place of worship nearby in 2018.
Similar comments were made by Sarah Burke of True North Veterinary Hospital in Bartlett and by Deb Brown for North Country Animal Hospital in North Conway: with more pets adopted and with new people moving to the valley with their animals. company, demand has been constant.
With more pets, there has also been more demand for dog grooming and day care, as well as dog sitters.
“We’ve definitely seen an increase, especially now that people are returning to work in person,” said Vickie Beaudoin, receptionist for Karla’s Pet Rendezvous at Conway.
“Those who had their dogs during the closure say, ‘Wait, now the dog is home alone.’ So they take them to the dog daycare, ”she said.
Added Kaci Kiesman of Aunt Cindy’s Albany Pet Care Center, LLC, “We have absolutely seen an increase in services. This was also true for our day care center and our pension.
Tracy Fay of Ultimutt Cut Pet Salon in Redstone has also been directly in the grooming business.
And North Conway’s Susie Hall Kennett reports that she and other dog sitters have also been in high demand. “I’m frank,” she said.
Efforts to reach PetSmart and Petco for comment were unsuccessful due to the store’s policy requiring company approval for employee interviews.