The Long Tail of the Pandemic Puppy Business

When it comes to counting the winners of the Covid-19 economy, some contenders have more bark than bite. Those specializing in home-gym equipment or back-porch furniture have years of tough comparisons ahead.

Last week, another company that has seen business boom during the pandemic reported it had added millions of new customers in the previous 12 months—most of whom it expects to stick around.

Petco, the animal-supply retailer, was a beneficiary of a pet boom during the long months of stay-at-home orders, when more than three million new pets were purchased or adopted.

“They made being at home richer and gave somebody to go hug,” Petco Chief Executive Ron Coughlin told me.

But the trends driving business to Petco tell us more than just how Americans handled the emotions of this past year. They reveal details on how months of living and working at home have created new business opportunities in unlikely places, even at brick-and-mortar retailers whose best days were once thought to be behind them. Pet ownership in the U.S. has become its own economic barometer, similar to the way RV sales famously foretell how economically secure the country is feeling. The puppy boom is more than adorable. It’s telling in what it says about how we want to work and live in a post-pandemic world.

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