British dog owners spend over £10.64 billion a year across the country as a whole according to research from American Express, an average of £1252 a year per pet
The research, published in November 2016, further indicates that some of the principal beneficiaries of the rise in spending have been the small businesses that have sprung up to cater for the growth in demand.
From those who have taken to organising dog birthday parties and holding puppy training classes to more traditional services such as vets and grooming, the nation’s obsession with ‘man’s best friend’ has created a new canine economy.
Over half of the nation’s dog owners interviewed, some 62%, said they use small independent businesses when shopping for their pets. The most popular reasons include quality of service (46%) and the fact that the shop keeper knows their pet and can find the best product for them (25%).
Furthermore, 26% of long-term dog owners say they spend more money on their pets now than they did five years ago, and a quarter (25%) are happy to make a special journey to buy something from their favourite shop.
“As a champion of small businesses we recognise their importance to the health of the local economy,” said Alice Noone, vice president marketing at American Express. “However, this research also highlights the role these small, independent shops play in maintaining the health and happiness of our family pets.”
American Express commissioned photographer Mike Buck to document the strength of the pooch pound across the UK by visiting a number of the small businesses that have grown up to cater for the diverse needs of British pet owners.
One of the businesses seeing growth as a result of the boom is The Sudbury Dog Company, which is based in Suffolk. Started in 2012 the company originally offered dog training and pet supplies, but it later branched out to offer a range of services, including dog birthday parties.
“We are a family run business with the welfare of dogs at its heart and we offer a number of services that help dogs to be happy, confident and sociable – from puppy socialisation classes and training to dog birthday parties,” said owner Genevieve Parsons. “As a small business, we have the opportunity to be nimble and offer programmes that really make a difference to pets and their owners’ lives.”
Another small business that has seen success is Hair of the Dog London, based in Highgate, a specialist grooming salon and concept boutique. The business offers a range of services from hand stripping, a full groom, wash and dry to nail clipping. It also offers dog day care and a pet portrait commissioning service.
“One of the benefits of being a small business is that we can talk to our customers on a daily basis, ensuring that we’re constantly up to date with what they need so we can offer the best service and products for happy, healthy pets,” said manager Holly Johnson. “We’re also able to source unique products which aren’t readily available on the high street, giving local pet owners a reason to come to us. As a result, we have a built a very loyal customer base over the years – those who have been with us since launching in 2010 and those who have joined since.”
How is the money spent?
Breaking down the overall spend, the research shows that, on average, dog owners spent £393.48 a year on dog food, which was the biggest single cost. Other significant expenses included insurance (£243.24 a year) and their dog’s health, with vet bills and medicines costing an average of £73.33 a year.
The remaining £541.46 spent on average per dog a year is discretionary, including the likes of toys, professional grooming, kennels, clothing and accessories.
Dogs are also likely to be treated by their owners, with 45% regularly buying gifts for their pets. Owners also like to keep their pooches looking their best, with one in 10 of dog owners (10%) saying their dogs are groomed at least once a week. Birthdays do not pass unnoticed either, with some 35% of owners saying they buy their pet a birthday cake and 59% getting them a gift.