The Pandemic and Pet Supply Stores

The pandemic has provoked panic-buying and stockpiling. Has this also played out in pet supply stores?
By Susan Tasaki, April 2020
George pet store interior in San Ramon, CA

George pet store interior in San Ramon, CA

The Covid-19 pandemic is bringing brick-and-mortar commerce to a halt nationwide. Across the country, state and local governments are putting measures in place to restrict citizens’ movement and person-to-person contact in the hope of slowing transmission of the virus.

Here in California, we’re now in week three of a mandatory shelter-in-place order, which was just strengthened and extended to May 3, at least. Reportedly, 30 states now have some version of this order in effect.

However, recognizing that we still need to eat, bank and access basic services, “essential businesses” have been allowed to remain open. Like grocery stores, pet supply stores are considered essential ... a good thing, since many of us rely on them to keep our co-pilots in comestibles.

So, the question is, where are we at keeping our dogs well-fed for the foreseeable future?

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First, the stats. According to a Civic Science survey (current as of March 25), 64 percent of those surveyed said they had enough pet food and supplies to get them through the next three to four weeks. The site also reports a 17 percent increase in online purchases of these supplies.

Over at Womply, a San Francisco software-as-a-service company, data collected across the country reveals more interesting info. A study current as of March 24, which included more than 1,600 chain and local pet stores nationwide, documented that a number of stores saw a surge in sales over the same period last year. Increases ranged from up to 25 percent to more than 75 percent. (Interestingly, Montana registered the largest jump: 151 percent.) There were also some declines, likely due to a general slowdown in retail sales as people began limiting their shopping trips.

Digging deeper into the details, Womply stats point out some jaw-dropping numbers. For example, in New York, one of the states hardest-hit by the virus, retail sales spiked by 273 percent. And on March 16 in the New York metro area, they increased by 335 percent, according to the company.

On a much less formal note, we casually surveyed a few of our familiar retail outlets, asking about their experiences in this complicated time. Here’s the takeaway.

From chains to boutique independents, there’s a general sense that people are indeed stocking up (although to date, we haven’t heard of anything like the logic-defying run on toilet paper that grocery stores experienced). Several have reported that business is increasing—in some cases, dramatically.

As Carey Tischler, CEO of Just Food For Dogs, told us, “We saw a massive spike in demand both online and in our kitchens, pantries and retail partners. As we source our own restaurant-grade ingredients and prepare, cook and package it ourselves in our own kitchens, we have been able to meet those demands with very few delays or stock issues during this crisis.”


A Fish & Bone employee greets a customer

Speaking from opposite coasts, both California’s George and Maine’s Fish & Bone told us that most of their vendors are able to fulfill orders, although there are a few hiccups as some deal with challenges in getting their product to retailers.

Like grocery stores, some pet-supply stores have reduced their hours to provide more cleaning and restocking time. Others have adapted to the social-distancing directive by putting new protocols in place, including mandatory online ordering and payment, curbside pick-up and home delivery.

So, the good news is that, at least for now, we can have confidence that if we need to buy kibble; canned, frozen or dehydrated food; treats; or other supplies, we should be able to find them online or on our favorite pet store’s shelves.

There’s also another option. Now that most of us are spending more time at home—a lot more time in some cases—this might be our golden opportunity to tackle home-cooking for our dogs. Here at The Bark, we’ve long advocated making our dogs’ eats in our own kitchens, and we have a whole online library of information and recipes to help you do just that.

Dig into the basics of cooking for your dog. Start small with treats or go big with maintenance meals (there are even a few tasty recipes that the humans in your house are likely to enjoy). Learn how to calculate your dog’s calorie needs. Discover easy mealtime extras that will enhance any meal. Whatever level you choose to explore, we’ve got your back!