Recession seems to miss pet businesses

Pets are being pampered despite the recession.
Pets are being pampered despite the recession. Abel Uribe/Chicago Tribune/MCT

What recession?

Not once has Megan Brandt felt the tightening economy's pinch in the six years she has washed, brushed and clipped canines. You might say her at-home grooming business, A Cut Above Pet Salon Inc. in Maryville, has never gone to the dogs.

"I have not suffered at all," Brandt said. "I've never been slow, regardless of the time of the year or the economy. I've never been without work."

At Dog Day Afternoon, a dog grooming business in Belleville, owner Cathy Dervalis feels much the same way.

"I've been waiting for that recession hammer to fall here," she said. "And it really hasn't."

Paul Stroh has operated a franchise of Camp Bow Wow, a dog-sitting and kennel service in Swansea, since September 2007 and has seen his business steadily drawing more "campers."

"Each month is better than the month before," Stroh said. "We have not seen any downturn at all. We were worried there in the October-November-December time frame that we were going to get hurt. Actually, it was very good. Now, in May and June, it was better than it was before."

At a time when the economy has been losing jobs and businesses, it's still gaining cats and dogs. Recent market statistics indicate the pet industry is growing.

According to Los Angeles-based industry research firm IBISWorld, the nation's pet businesses are expected to generate $51.6 billion this year, an increase of 1.3 percent over 2008. Senior analyst George Van Horn said that because pets tend to be more aligned with being a member of the family the costs of caring for them are not costs owners can or are willing to cut back on.

"I think it really boils down to where pets are in the discretionary ladder," Van Horn said. "The United States is certainly a very wealthy economy, probably not as wealthy as we were two or three years ago, but it's still a really affluent society. When consumers budget, the things people can do without or no longer do or spend time doing, pets don't really fall into that."

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