Christmas Is For The Dogs

December 10, 2020

Grandma is writing heartfelt notes to go with the Christmas gifts she bought to send to Max, Abigail, Harper and Hudson.

“I know I’m not supposed to choose favorites,” she pens to each one of them, “but you’re my number one.”

At first it looked like one of those sentimental Publix TV commercials you see at the holidays, all about family and tradition, ads with the potential to make softer-hearted viewers tear up. (Or so I’ve heard.)

Then, the twist: Max, Abigail, Harper and Hudson turn out to be her own children’s two dogs, one cat, and I’m pretty sure that was a guinea pig getting a present from grandma. Turns out, it’s an ad this holiday season from online pet supply retailer Chewy.

It started early in the pandemic.

With a lot of us hunkered down at home and missing contact and interaction, we focused on four-legged members of our households. (Speaking of commercials, have you seen the one for Nutro where Tucker the dog starts off enthusiastic about all the extra walks he’s getting, but ultimately takes refuge under the coffee table when the leash comes out yet again?) A study by the American Pet Products Association found that 72 percent of owners said spending time with a pet during the pandemic is helping to reduce stress. And a third said they spent more money on their pets during this health crisis, according to a LendingTree survey.

Which brings us to a survey by the Deloitte consulting firm that found half of pet-owning consumers plan to spend an average of $90 on pet supplies for the holidays this year. Rover’s 2020 Holiday Shopping Report says that nearly 80 percent plan to buy their dog a gift. Bring on the doggy DNA kits, kitty elf suits and hedgehog squeaky toys. The most interestingly useful potential present I’ve seen so far has to be the Slow Treater, a silicone piece about the size of a drink coaster you fill with peanut butter and suction to the bathtub wall so Bailey can happily lick away while you bathe her. (Consumer tip: Sources close to my desk report that some dogs prefer spray cheese.)

How big will we go for pets who’ve helped us get through 2020? I don’t know, but on the Chewy.com site, you can find a La-Z-Boy dog sofa bed for $179.99.

At the Downtown Dogs boutique in Tampa’s Hyde Park Village, owner Rene Neff said shoppers seem focused on homey, comforting items like dog beds and toys. Some purchases, such as wooden dog feeders, go with the theme of people sprucing up the homes they find themselves spending so much time in these days. And shopping started earlier this year, she said.

“I think there’s just this yearning to enjoy the holidays and find something to celebrate,” Neff said.

But crowd-leery consumers may be doing much of that shopping from home. Brook Bickford, owner of Gone to the Dogs Boutique and Grooming in St. Pete Beach, says retail is down.

“With COVID and everything else, people are not coming out to brick-and-mortar shops,” he said. “They’ve gotten very used to ordering things online.”

Is Christmas going to the dogs? Tampa lawyer Kim Kohn’s household includes Great Danes Rainy, who is partial to squeakies, and Moses, who likes balls. Which they will most certainly be getting for the holidays.

“And probably new blankets,” Kohn reported.

“I mean, dogs are family — they’re our therapy dogs,” she said. “They’re everything to us.”

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