Stores do brisk business selling holiday outfits for family pets
By REBECCA ISENHART
NISKAYUNA — Who said you need thumbs to tear into a gift on Christmas morning?
Marie DeBrocky certainly doesn’t think so. DeBrocky owns Head-to-Tail pet wellness center on Union Street, and if the shelves of her store are any indication, her customers agree.
Half the store is covered in velvet Santa suits for the four-legged set, in multiple sizes, of course. There are organic Christmas-themed dog biscuits, squeaky toys for pups on the nice list, and Hanukkah-themed collars for cats and dogs. The list goes on.
“People view their pets more as family members now than they ever did,” said DeBrocky, who has owned the store for a little more than five years. Since she opened it, she said, her sales volume has increased significantly.
Pet purchases seem to be increasing across a number of categories. The National Retail Federation put American spending on pet costumes for Halloween at about $350 million this year.
Debrocky said pet dress-up has leaked into the winter holidays, too. People dress up their dogs and cats. Even her golden retriever, Bella, has a Santa suit, though she’s a little reluctant to wear it.
“She prefers the scarves,” DeBrocky said.
Typically, when DeBrocky sees a customer shopping with the holidays in mind, orders range somewhere between $30 and $100. But she’s not surprised when they exceed that number.
“Some people go way out,” she said. “I’ve had many sales $200 and up.”
It’s more than an impulse buy, too. DeBrocky said this year, earlier than ever before, people were looking for her holiday goods so they could check their pets off their shopping lists. She ended up displaying presents for dogs and cats two weeks earlier than she had planned.
“It wasn’t even Thanksgiving this year and they were like, ‘Where’s your Christmas stuff?’ ” she said.
The PetSmart in Niskayuna is similarly stocked — to a degree that borders on fanatical. It’s not just the stuffed alligators and flamingos wearing Santa hats that are just waiting to be chewed off, or the cat toys with jingle bells, or the special pet food dishes covered in red and green glitter. It goes way beyond that.
“Your guinea pig can be a little helper in PetSmart’s elf costume or sport reindeer antlers to get in the holiday spirit,” Shelly Albrecht, marketing manager of hard goods for PetSmart, wrote in an email.
She noted that even fish owners could shower their finned friends with gifts, too. Sure enough, PetSmart’s shelves are stocked with fish-safe gingerbread houses and other dish decor for swimming through.
But if tiny antlers aren’t quite refined enough, they also offer something a little more formal.
“This year, we’ve introduced a cocktail-inspired line from Martha Stewart Pets, so your pets can dress to impress at those holiday parties,” Albrecht added.
On a recent sunny afternoon, Lori Clark and John Julian walked out of the Niskayuna PetSmart after some holiday shopping with smiles on their faces and their dog, Sammie, in tow, unaware of the seasonal excitement.
Sammie has a Christmas dress, but she wasn’t wearing it for their shopping excursion.
The seasonably fashionable pup had a Christmas bandana on, instead.
The couple adopted Sammie from the Animal Shelter of Schoharie Valley just before Christmas last year, but this is their first year shopping for her presents, because she arrived with her own pre-filled stocking from the shelter last year.
“We spent more than $100,” Clark said. “I have to come back later for the cat.”
DeBrocky agreed a holiday gift is a great way to celebrate the arrival of a new pet during the winter months. In mid-December, she was preparing to welcome a new golden retriever puppy into her home to help keep Bella company.
His name is Toby, and his stocking is stuffed.
“I bought him a Santa outfit already,” she said.