Diapers.com is spinning off to address the “other baby” in the family — the family pet.
Wag.com is being launched by Amazon's Quidsi e-commerce division as a companion site to Diapers.com and Soap.com (and rival to PetSmart, Petco and other pet e-tailers), selling products ranging from dog food to hamster cages.
The Wag.com e-commerce brand, which is still in pre-launch mode, promises a 365-day return policy and free two-day shipping within the US on orders over $49. The site has already launched a Facebook and Twitter feed.
When Amazon launches a pet e-commerce site, it's a solid indicator that the pets market is booming.
Already, “human grade” food and products for pets are all the rage in the US, where pet owners spent $55 billion last year on their beloved critters, according to market research firm Packaged Facts.
Witness the recent Global Pet Expo, where the New York Times spotted vendors including pan-seared duck with brown rice and blueberry compote, and salmon with black-and-white quinoa.
Also on display: pheasant, yak’s milk, organic pumpkin, antidepressants, and even prosthetic testicles for neutered dogs and cats (Neuticles, costing $1,000 a pair), all indicating that consumers will go to any length to pamper their pets.
62% of American households have a dog or cat: 40% dogs, 34% cats, and with a correlative 7% increase in vet services, as America’s pet population is living longer than ever.
“Pet owners aren’t just looking to provide a home for their pets, they are investing in their pets’ quality of life. Oftentimes they do this at their own expense, cutting personal expenses, but not those affecting their faithful companions,” says Bob Vetere, President, American Pet Products Association, to the NYT.
In two of the nation’s largest chains, PetSmart and Petco, business is steady. PetSmart shares are at an all time high of $43.46, and sales are up 6% over last year’s first quarter; and Jim Myers, Petco’s CEO reports that “his company did not have a single negative quarter throughout the recession.”
“Thankfully, we are in a pretty emotional category,” said Myers, borne out by the boom in non-food items including “eco-friendly” pet furniture, grooming products and wipes (made from organically grown bamboo), to Israeli dog shampoo made with Dead Sea minerals, to Sniff Pet Candles named “Day in the Hamptons” and “Field of Dreams.”
On the flip side, there's an increasing number of animals decimated by natural disasters, or who get left behind or given to shelters, as well as unwanted pets, with approximately 3.7 million animals euthanized in US shelters in 2008.
There’s a big opportunity for the pet industry to emulate what brands like TOMS are doing for less fortunate humans, and begin helping our less fortunate four-footed companions as part of their e-business model.