Lockdown, home office or at least social distancing – not only singles felt the great loneliness. So what could be more natural than to get an animal roommate in the 2020 pandemic? Austria is a country of animal lovers anyway: every second household should accommodate animals. An estimated two million cats and one million dogs live in the country. In addition, there are over half a million small mammals and as many birds and reptiles again. With the fish that would be around five million pets, Andreas Popper calculates in an interview with the “Wiener Zeitung”. In the Chamber of Commerce he is responsible for 1,000 domestic pet dealers, including dog salons.
These numbers also include a huge cost factor. In its 2019/20 consumer survey, Statistics Austria estimated that households with animals spend around EUR 75 per month on them. – And now these expenses are said to have increased as a result of the pandemic.
Was 2020 really the year in which all of Austria bought animal housemates, we want to know from Andreas Popper. “A pet boom was not noticeable in the pet trade,” replies Popper, owner of the oldest pet shop in the country, which has been run by his family for 200 years. However, he says, dogs and cats are no longer allowed to be sold in shops. Therefore the established pet retailers did not notice much of the increased demand.
Great demand and dubious origin
However, the demand for dogs, cats and co. Apparently exceeded the possibilities of the domestic breeders, whereupon people bought foreign animals without further ado, he explains and adds: “It is of no use if we in Austria have strict guidelines and the people then get animals from abroad, often from dubious sources and in very poor condition. “
In the case of accessories and food, however, the domestic retailers have definitely enjoyed the boom in 2020. After all, they were allowed to keep them open during the lockdowns due to systemic importance. Austria’s market leader in animal feed and accessories, Fessnapf, achieved record results: The chain with 131 branches across Austria increased its total sales by 18.2 percent, an increase of 33 million euros compared to the previous year.
However, not all industry representatives were able to benefit equally in 2020/21, Popper points out: “The smallest retailers may not have benefited at all, while the chains with large areas have made good use of the shopping need.” Overall, he estimates the growth in pet supplies in 2020 to be around five to seven percent.
The trigger for this was a rethink, says Popper: “Many parents have bought animals to get their children off the screen and into more meaningful occupation.” This love for animals will continue, he expects and sees no increased tendency to release animals again immediately, now that the holiday season has started and people are back to work in the office. “I love my pet owners, they tend to give away their last shirt for their critters and don’t take themselves so seriously. The love of animals is very great in this country. At the moment, no more animals are given away than in normal years during the holiday season,” he says.
What dogs, cats & Co actually cost
Animal experts recommend that such a purchase should be carefully considered in advance so that it does not even happen that an animal is given away.
An important point that needs to be clarified is the question of costs, which is often underestimated. “A very small dog costs around 1,000 euros a year, 150 euros of which are acquisition costs if you take him out of the animal shelter, for example,” says zoo dealer Popper.
Hermann Aigner, managing director of Fressnapf Austria, estimates the acquisition costs to be somewhat higher: “For animals from the animal shelter, a nominal fee of between 300 and 350 euros is usually levied. The price of pedigree animals from the breeder is open. Usually they cost between 2,500 and 3,500 euros . “
The Fressnapf boss then breaks down the follow-up costs as follows: “The basic budget in the first year for a medium-sized dog is around 1,200 euros. In the following years, around 900 euros are incurred annually for food, accessories and medical costs. Additional services such as dog sitter or Dog trainers increase the budget again. “
The costs vary depending on the animal and size, purchase and keeping. The dog tax, for example, depends on the municipality. The dog fee in Vienna is 72 euros, for each additional dog another 105 euros have to be paid.
Fressnapf boss Aigner adds: “In Vienna, Upper Austria, Salzburg, Tyrol and Styria, dog owners are also legally obliged to insure their dogs. Prices and services included vary with the providers.”
In fact, the question of costs for pets, especially dogs and cats, needs to be clarified in the long term. The acquisition costs themselves are manageable.
In any case, the pet retailers benefit mainly from the follow-up costs, explains Popper: “We don’t earn anything on a hamster for 20 euros. Only from the equipment and the follow-up costs. Actually, selling animals is much too cheap, we would have to sell the animals three times as much.”
How to make real money with animals
So animals are good business if you can get the most out of it. This means offering additional services, whether that is a vacation care service, as in Popper’s shop, or an online shop that has generated a 134 percent increase in sales for Fessnapf over the past two years.
The pet supply chain has recently started offering trips for dog owners in cooperation with Rewe Touristik Austria. That should also go well, because Managing Director Aigner says: “We are very satisfied with the booking situation and have noticed that the subject of” traveling with a dog “is very well received by our customers.”