Pet your plants
27 Jan 2022
This week: Two years out, our pandemic preoccupations (pups and plants, get it?) remain.
Nearly 1 in 5 American households adopted a furry friend during the pando. When it comes to our pets? We’re obsessed.
Even the pope had his own hot take: “We see that some people do not want to have a child… they have dogs and cats that take the place of children.” “Bleak, Francis,” quipped Mia Mercado in The Cut. “Someone get this man a companion dog.”
• Petco – you know, where the pets go – recently opened a NYC flagship for Reddy, their “millennial-centric” brand. “We want to strengthen that bond – both pet parent and pet, but also with the community,” said shop manager Jason Burris. Their strategy? Become a neighborhood anchor. With 39% of Petco’s customers seeking IRL experiences, the store delivers: featuring a fitting booth, nutrition station, and lounge.
• Spoiling fur babies is not a new phenomenon, but with fierce competition for such in-demand creatures – has it taken on a whole other dimension? “The rescue dog is now, indisputably, a luxury good,” declared New York Magazine. With the rise of DTC pet-care brands, there are more ways to indulge them than ever before. Think: canine caviar and small-batch treats. “People sought out antidotes to the emotional toll of the pandemic – snacking and self-treating increased,” noted a spokesperson for market research group Mintel. “This appears to be translating into a heightened desire among pet parents to similarly treat their dogs.”
• With the surge in pet ownership amongst millennials, it’s no surprise that sustainability is also coming to the fore in pet land. All that stuff generates 300 million pounds of plastic waste in the U.S. alone. “The market is a massive opportunity,” said Luana Bumachar, VP at Grove Collaborative, which just unveiled Good Fur, an eco line of grooming products. Let’s not forget that wellness piece, which is trending worldwide. Last year, Aussies spent $269 million on treatments like animal acupuncture, and pet products targeting anxiety are now “flooding the market.”
Though you may scoff at the idea of aromatherapy for pooches, it’s no wonder pet owners are spending (more than ever) on soothing their companions. Most of them credit their pets with keeping life from getting unbearably lonely during lockdowns.
“The mental health benefits of pet ownership flow both ways,” noted the World Economic Forum.
If you remember lockdown, you remember the stampede on garden centers. Ordering seeds was a blood sport. As WFH became commonplace, people turned to flowers and plants to beautify their backgrounds.
• “Flower power: Covid restrictions fuel boom in plant and bulb sales,” ran a 2020 headline in The Guardian. Our thumbs now? Still green. UK garden centers are trading at 25% higher than three years ago. “Welcome to 2022: the dawn of the Gardening Age,” wrote George Ball in The Wall Street Journal. “This sort-of ‘thirst’ for plants is still quite high,” said Michael Leach, owner of Dynasty Plants, who has seen the number of plant shops in his Toronto neighborhood proliferate. DTC houseplants darling The Sill, which now has doors from SF to NY, pulls in annual revenue of $10 million with a simple premise: “Plants make people happy.”
• “Flowers don’t speak, but… they are anything but silent,” wrote Megan Craig in The New York Times. “During the lockdowns when people weren’t able to see loved ones, flowers became sort of a substitute for a hug,” said Aron Gelbard, CEO of online florist Bloom & Wild. Flower subscription service Freddie’s Flowers saw sales surge 60% in 2020, attracting £43 million in investment last year. Not bad for an enterprise started out of founder Freddie Garland’s parents’ garden. Freddie’s is also a serial partner with Appear Here, with stalls popping up from Kensal Rise to Covent Garden.
• Flower delivery startup Colvin has been on a meteoric trajectory since it was founded five years ago, with the ambition of “revolutionizing” the flowers and plants industry on a global scale. The digitally native brand is not only investing in tech, but also in physical experiences. “We did our first [pop-up] last November… and it was a great success, connecting with Colvin fans as well as presenting the brand to new people in a creative and close way,” said Sergi Bastardas, co-founder and co-CEO. The Barca-based business saw a fourfold sales increase in 2020, and they’re steadily expanding into new markets. “We’re seeing a rising interest in having plants and flowers at home,” said Sergi. “More people buying for themselves or buying for gifting… to make [their] own and other’s lives feel more vibrant.”
Could it be that Covid has made us kinder? More considerate?
Maybe we’re that much more aware it’s not just about cultivating our own proverbial garden.
It’s “the soft pleasure of tending to the needs of living things,” as Megan Garber wrote in The Atlantic. “Of one species communing with another.”
Words by Amy Tai, creative consultant and native New Yorker now based in London.