Americans Can’t Stop Pampering Their Pets—Companies Want In
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Americans Can’t Stop Pampering Their Pets—Companies Want In

Firms that cater to humans adapt to the animal world. Ultrasounds for tree frogs. Telehealth for Stella.

By SHARON TERLEP
Fri, Jan 6, 2023 8:56amGrey Clock 3 min

Attention, CEOs: If not enough people are using your product, maybe animals will.

“Have you seen the numbers? They’re staggering,” said Jenna Mutch, a vice president at portable-ultrasound maker Butterfly Network Inc., referring to the rush of Americans who have brought home pets since the pandemic began. About 23 million households did, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Spending to pamper them is one of a few areas of the economy managing to defy inflation and avoid a post-lockdown pullback.

As a result, some companies that normally cater to humans are high-tailing it to pets.

Ms. Mutch heads commercial development for a newly created unit of her ultrasound company that sells scanners for animals.

Adapting human products for animals can be complicated. There’s the matter of animals’ size. Also, their shape.

Butterfly’s ultrasound machines can scan things ranging from as small as the reproductive organs of tree frogs to chonky mammals, including polar bears, according to Ms. Mutch. “We have to be very versatile,” she said.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. is adding hundreds of hotels where animals can stay the night. It offers virtual “pet expert teams” to address health and behaviour issues they might have while traveling, teaming with Mars Inc., the parent of veterinary operator VCA and Purina pet foods.

Snack-bar maker Clif Bar & Co. this summer started selling a line of jerky treats for dogs. Global food giant Mondelez International Inc. took over Clif in August. More pets and growing demand for all-natural dog food prompted the move, a spokeswoman said.

Petco Health & Wellness Co. gets dozens of proposals from companies looking to adapt their products to animals, said Chief Executive Ron Coughlin. Not all the ideas are fully baked. He passed on bringing acupuncturists to the company’s stores.

Although some consumers struggling with inflation are cutting back on nonessentials, they don’t seem to put pet stuff in that category. Spending on pet food was up more than 18% in the last year, and spending on supplies rose 8%, according to Jefferies Research Services.

Mr. Coughlin of Petco is confident the spending will continue as Americans become ever closer to their animals.

“If you look at 100 years ago, pets were in the wild. Forty years ago, they’re in our yard, and 20 years ago in the house,” he said. “Now they’re in the bed.”

Rebecca Goldberg, a physician assistant in Manhattan, has a mixed-breed rescue dog named Stella. When it comes to pampering dogs, Ms. Goldberg is middle of the pack. Hers sleeps on a dog bed, eats kibble as opposed to fresh or human-grade food, and enjoys regular treats.

But Stella, 5, also has a high-end, Carhartt-brand vest to keep her warm outdoors. And lately, Stella has become a remote patient for a veterinary telehealth company called Pawp.

Ms. Goldberg signed up for Pawp as part of a temporary deal offered by T-Mobile. She gets free telehealth services for a year and pays $14 a month to cover emergency visits.

The deal was attractive, she said, because Stella has a sensitive stomach and a propensity to eat things she shouldn’t, a combination that made for frequent vet visits. “Having a veterinary clinic in your pocket is amazing,” Ms. Goldberg said.

Pawp’s founder, Marc Atiyeh, is a veteran of a few industries, none of them animal-related. Before starting Pawp he worked in fintech, finance and mobile analytics.

“There is definitely a flock of players getting into this space,” he said. “You’re getting folks who are veterans of human healthcare or personal finance.”

Peggy Roe, who oversees customer experience and new ventures for Marriott International Inc., said the chain in 2021 started noticing more people asking animal-related questions as they sought vacation lodging—“people asking, ‘Are hotels pet friendly?’ ‘What size dog can I bring?’ ”

Seeing the queries, the company surveyed customers, and of around 300 respondents, 85% said they had pets and more than half planned to travel with them. And not just dogs. Customers expressed interest in traveling with cats, birds and even fish.

“We have hotels that accept all kinds of pets—they don’t discriminate,” Ms. Roe said.

She took Riley, her newly acquired golden retriever, on a road trip, stopping at Marriott properties along the way. There were some worries. How would the stay go over with other guests—and with Riley?

“There was that anxiety,” she said. “Is this going to be good for my dog? Are our other guests going to be upset? Is the staff going to be nice?”

She realised it wasn’t enough to simply provide options for people and their animals. Marriott had to ensure the comfort of both.

“There are the people who love pets, the people who love pets and don’t want to travel with them, and people who don’t want pets anywhere in their space,” she said.

Under a partnership with Petco, Marriott will highlight home-rental properties that are especially well-equipped for pets. Travellers can buy products such as dog beds and bowls from Petco and have them delivered.

“Inflation or not,” Ms. Roe said. “People aren’t going to leave their pets behind.”



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New York Watch Auctions Record Uptick in Sales in the Face of Market Slowdown
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Mon, Jun 24, 2024 4 min

Luxury watch collectors showed ongoing strong demand for Patek Philippe, growing interest in modern watches and a preference for larger case sizes and leather straps at the June watch sales in New York, according to an analysis of the major auctions.

Independent and neo-vintage categories, meanwhile, experienced declines in total sales and average prices, said the report from  EveryWatch, a global online platform for watch information. Overall, the New York auctions achieved total sales of US$52.27 million, a 9.87% increase from the previous year, on the sale of 470 lots, reflecting a 37% increase in volume. Unsold rates ticked down a few points to 5.31%, according to the platform’s analysis.

EveryWatch gathered data from official auction results for sales held in New York from June 5 to 10 at Christie’s, Phillips, and Sotheby’s. Limited to watch sales exclusively, each auction’s data was reviewed and compiled for several categories, including total lots, sales and sold rates, highest prices achieved, performance against estimates, sales trends in case materials and sizes as well as dial colors, and more. The resulting analysis provides a detailed overview of market trends and performance.

The Charles Frodsham Pocket watch sold at Phillips for $433,400.

“We still see a strong thirst for rare, interesting, and exceptional watches, modern and vintage alike, despite a little slow down in the market overall,” says Paul Altieri, founder and CEO of the California-based pre-owned online watch dealer BobsWatches.com, in an email. “The results show that there is still a lot of money floating around out there in the economy looking for quality assets.”

Patek Philippe came out on top with more than US$17.68 million on the sale of 122 lots. It also claimed the top lot: Sylvester Stallone’s Patek Philippe GrandMaster Chime 6300G-010, still in the sealed factory packaging, which sold at Sotheby’s for US$5.4 million, much to the dismay of the brand’s president, Thierry Stern . The London-based industry news website WatchPro estimates the flip made the actor as much as US$2 million in just a few years.

At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire
Richard Mille

“As we have seen before and again in the recent Sotheby’s sale, provenance can really drive prices higher than market value with regards to the Sylvester Stallone Panerai watches and his standard Patek Philippe Nautilus 5711/1a offered,” Altieri says.

Patek Philippe claimed half of the top 10 lots, while Rolex and Richard Mille claimed two each, and Philippe Dufour claimed the No. 3 slot with a 1999 Duality, which sold at Phillips for about US$2.1 million.

“In-line with EveryWatch’s observation of the market’s strong preference for strap watches, the top lot of our auction was a Philippe Dufour Duality,” says Paul Boutros, Phillips’ deputy chairman and head of watches, Americas, in an email. “The only known example with two dials and hand sets, and presented on a leather strap, it achieved a result of over US$2 million—well above its high estimate of US$1.6 million.”

In all, four watches surpassed the US$1 million mark, down from seven in 2023. At Christie’s, the top lot was a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM56-02 AO Tourbillon Sapphire, the most expensive watch sold at Christie’s in New York. That sale also saw a Richard Mille Limited Edition RM52-01 CA-FQ Tourbillon Skull Model go for US$1.26 million to an online buyer.

Rolex expert Altieri was surprised one of the brand’s timepieces did not crack the US$1 million threshold but notes that a rare Rolex Daytona 6239 in yellow gold with a “Paul Newman John Player Special” dial came close at US$952,500 in the Phillips sale.

The Crown did rank second in terms of brand clout, achieving sales of US$8.95 million with 110 lots. However, both Patek Philippe and Rolex experienced a sales decline by 8.55% and 2.46%, respectively. The independent brand Richard Mille, with US$6.71 million in sales, marked a 912% increase from the previous year with 15 lots, up from 5 lots in 2023.

The results underscored recent reports of prices falling on the secondary market for specific coveted models from Rolex, Patek Philippe, and Audemars Piguet. The summary points out that five top models produced high sales but with a fall in average prices.

The Rolex Daytona topped the list with 42 appearances, averaging US$132,053, a 41% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Nautilus, with two of the top five watches, made 26 appearances with an average price of US$111,198, a 26% average price decrease. Patek Philippe’s Perpetual Calendar followed with 23 appearances and a US$231,877 average price, signifying a fall of 43%, and Audemars Piguet’s Royal Oak had 22 appearances and an average price of US$105,673, a 10% decrease. The Rolex Day Date is the only watch in the top five that tracks an increase in average price, which at US$72,459 clocked a 92% increase over last year.

In terms of categories, modern watches (2005 and newer) led the market with US$30 million in total sales from 226 lots, representing a 53.54% increase in sales and a 3.78% increase in average sales price over 2023. Vintage watches (pre-1985) logged a modest 6.22% increase in total sales and an 89.89% increase in total lots to 169.

However, the average price was down across vintage, independent, and neo-vintage (1990-2005) watches. Independent brands saw sales fall 24.10% to US$8.47 million and average prices falling 42.17%, while neo-vintage watches experienced the largest decline in sales and lots, with total sales falling 44.7% to US$8.25 million, and average sales price falling 35.73% to US$111,000.

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