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EDITORIAL Always work with children and animals – if you want to drive growth

Pets and kids: sniffing out growth

The old TV presenters’ adage that you should never work with children or animals doesn’t hold true in the ecommerce world. Pet ownership and young people are the key drivers of growth currently, each feeding new customers and new products into the market as 2022 gets going.

First of all children. Well, to be more precise young adults in the Gen Z bracket. They are now so tech savvy and have adapted so well to using mobile and social media during lockdown – their formative years – that they are now very much calling the shots.

According to a study by Vodafone, half of millennials and Gen Z consumers care more about increased digital technology in high street shops than prices – especially local convenience stores.

And its is already starting to come true for these young dreamers. Leading variety store chain – and firm favourites with young people – Flying Tiger Copenhagen has become one of the first SME chains to roll out mobile self-checkout in its UK shops. This move by such a niche chain to use tech that, to date, has been more commonly associated with the likes of Amazon, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, draws a clear line in the sand that smaller businesses that target young people need to get on with innovating.

They also need to use social more. Data from Hootsuite suggests that as many as 58% of the world’s entire population now uses social media – that’s 4.62 billion people – up 10% on 2020. And this is profoundly impacting how brands and retailers have to engage their customers.

While not all of these are Gen Z, many of them are and understanding the role that social now plays in the commerce journeys and the broader lives of these people is the key to better engagement and sales growth anywhere in the world.

That’s the role of kids – now, what of animals? There has been an 8% increase in the number of households buying pets in 2021, a staggering 17 million people in the UK now own at least one animal – and this means pet products are set to be a big growth opportunity for SME retailers in 2022. Not least Valentine’s Day cards for dogs and cats, which have seen a 200% increase in interest this year.

Pet foods – gourmet and otherwise – pet equipment rental, exotic animal insurance and, my dog’s favourite, ‘Vet Tech’ are all areas of interest for SMEs and niche retailers looking to tap into this lucrative market.

Together, tapping into younger demographics and into pet owners – many of whom will be guided by Pester Power from their Gen Alpha offspring – offer some tasty opportunities for retailers this spring. Now go fetch that growth.

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