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Treats, tats, designer attire: Pet parents spending up big on their pooches

Andy Evans gets dogs. But mostly he gets their owners – and their seemingly insane (and well-documented) desire to give their furry friends the best stuff money can buy.

So he – and many others in New Zealand and worldwide – are out to help.

Evans owns two dog-related companies, Guardians (where your dog is temporarily adopted out into a loving home when you are at work or on holiday – no more mean outdoor kennels for my best friend), and Bow Wow Box, a subscription-based dog treats company.

Sign up, and for $29.95-$39.95 (depending on the size of your dog) Bow Wow Box will deliver a box of healthy treats and toys to your dog each month. The company’s been going since the end of last year, and already has 400 subscribers and has delivered more than 5000 boxes.

Now Evans is looking for an additional $75,000 via equity crowdfunding site PledgeMe to build the business in New Zealand and potentially Australia.

He says the dog treats box idea came from America, where BarkBox has been sending out monthly treats for more than three years, raised $US6.7 million in early stage funding, another $US15 million last year and now has close to a quarter of a million customers, and a number of competitors.

Dog (and to a lesser extent cat) treats are a rapidly-growing market worldwide.

Global market research company Euromonitor found in a recently survey that pet treats are in the top five pet products growth categories in every region in the world – with sales increasing in double digits in newer markets (Latin America and Eastern Europe) and by 6%-10% in Western Europe and North America.


It’s about the humanisation of our animals, Evans says. The figures aren’t available for New Zealand, but 80% of Americans apparently see their pets as part of the family, and these “pet parents” are prepared to spend significant amounts of money on pampering their pets.

Euromonitor data suggests global spending on domestic animals will break through the $US100bn barrier for the first time this year, rising to $US103.8bn from $US98.3bn in 2014. In the UK alone, pet owners spent more than $US5.5 billion on pet food and $US1.5 billion on non-edible gifts – grooming treatments, holidays, day care, clothes and toys.

In New Zealand, the total pet spend was estimated at $1.25 billion in 2011, and extrapolating from international figures, Evans reckons Kiwis will spend $54 million this year on pet treats alone.

As Franchise Help’s Pet Care Industry Analysis 2015 explains:

“Pet pampering is becoming the norm, as pet owner spending has moved far beyond simple food and grooming expenses to include innovative and specialised premium products.”

Like subscription treats.

Pet owners want their pets to be eating the same quality food they eat themselves – hence Bow Wow Box providing only healthy treats in its boxes.  

“An important theme in treats now is ‘guilt-free,’” says the latest edition of the Pet Food in the US report. “When a pet owner can give the pet treats that have natural features, such as grain-free, wheat, corn and soy free, and low calorie, then the pet owner feels good about offering small indulgences.”

Another trend Bow Wow Box is set to take advantage of is “snackification” – which is now spilling over into petfoods, according to the Petfood Industry website. As with human food, the driver is “seeking to combine snacking with nutrition and function to suit on-the-go lifestyles”, the site says.

 Evans says 98% of Bow Wow box customers are female, and surprisingly, they aren’t all urban sophisticates.

“The majority of our customers are the “gumboot” customer – average Kiwis,” Evans says. We’ve got a lot of loyal rural customers – people who don’t want to have to hop in the car and drive for 45 minutes to get treats for the dogs. But I’d say we are going to get more city customers.”

He has 93% retention month-on-month.

“The unboxing is creating a lot of customer loyalty,” Evans says. “They see the excitement in their dogs’ faces when the box arrives. It becomes an enjoyable monthly ritual.” 

For this reason, social media has been a big part of the company’s marketing strategy. Bow Wow Wow has almost 10,000 Facebook likes and customers have posted 40 or so videos, mostly of their dogs opening their boxes, and hundreds of photos.

Evans, who spent most of his career in the corporate sector, including Ernst & Young and the Institute of Directors, says Bow Wow Box company needs 700-800 customers to break even.

“Then you reach the tipping point when the product becomes cheaper, you can import more product from overseas, and it creates a snowball effect.”

Crazy dog people.

Here are three other ridiculous ways to spend money on your pooch:

1) Exercise classes

The UK’s Telegraph newspaper reported on the rise of doga and pawlates

2) Tattoos

Apparently temporary tattoos for dogs are all the rage in some quarters, though the permanent variety raises a few hackles among dog lovers

Photos courtesy of Susan Watts, New York Daily News

3) Designer shoes

From yellow duck slippers to faux leather leopard skin, you no longer need to let your dog suffer the indignity of bare feet.

Photos courtesy of Geoff Godden

Chief editor at Idealog, Nikki's a veteran in the journalism industry. A former lecturer at AUT University, she was the chief reporter at NZ weekly business publication The Independent and was deputy editor of Canadian publication Unlimited magazine.

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