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Gen Z's animal attraction helps pet business thrive

Updated: 2023-09-04 08:12 ( XINHUA )
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"Let's see, which one of you will join me in my office today?" Every day, Wang Jingqi brings one of her canine companions to her newly opened Marsmart pet store in THE BOX Youth Energy Center in Beijing's Chaoyang district.

The 28-year-old is the cofounder of two pet stores in the capital and the caregiver to six adorable dogs.Her story with her canine friends began in 2015, when she set out to study in the United States, accompanied by her first dog. "The dog became an integral part of my family, a source of immense solace in a foreign land," says Wang.

This overseas adventure gave Wang a unique outlook on the future of China's pet economy.Seeing its immense potential,upon her return in 2020, she transitioned her career from education and technology to pet retail.

Teaming up with three partners who had quit their jobs at nightclubs and music festivals, Wang seized the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to this burgeoning industry.

She currently serves as the chief product officer at Marsmart, a pet store chain with a distinctive Martian aesthetic. She points out that the selection of the Martian visuals is aligned with Generation Z's modern retail preferences of "art plus technology plus individual experience".

Born between 1995 and 2009,Gen Zers are heavily influenced by the internet and social media.

According to the China Pet Industry Annual Report 2022 released by the Asia Pet Alliance Institute, the number of pets and pet owners in China continues to expand, with young people aged between 19 and 30 being the main demographic for pet ownership.

As more Gen Zers join the pet community, "regarding pets as members of a family" is becoming a trend, says the report.

In a Marsmart store, it is common to see young individuals accompanied by their furry friends. The well-designed setting helps pets find their favored products with ease. To accommodate their needs, display shelves in the store are specially designed at pet height, ensuring a delightful shopping experience for all.

Apart from dogs and cats, Gen Z keeps a diverse range of unconventional pets. "We've even welcomed lizards, ducks, parrots and hamsters to pick up their toys,"Wang notes, enthusiastically.

As digital natives, Gen Zers are increasingly connected through social media, and Marsmart's social platform is flooded with young enthusiasts inquiring about pet products, information and posting cute, self-made pet memes.

While mobile phones have undoubtedly enhanced convenience, Wang emphasizes that Gen Zers have a strong desire for face-to-face interaction. Despite conducting 30 percent of the business online, Marsmart actively organizes in-person social activities for both pets and their owners.

"Like-minded individuals can share stories and their love for animals together," Wang explains. "The pets are also excited to meet each other at our offline pet parties."

According to Wang, the landscape of pet ownership in China has been reshaped by the increasing number of young people living alone, leading to a rise in pets as cherished family members.

The monthly turnover of the two brick-and-mortar Marsmart stores reaches an impressive 1.8 million yuan ($250,000), which Wang believes is largely fueled by Gen Z's desire for emotional support and a work-life balance.

According to iiMedia Research,the pet economy in China is projected to reach 592.8 billion yuan this year, following a compound growth rate of 20.2 percent from 2015 to 2020.

In a sharp shift from a decade ago, Wang has observed that young pet owners no longer blindly prioritize prestigious brands or imported products. They now opt for high-quality domestic products as well. "This trend is partly influenced by the growing affection and appreciation for Chinese culture and homemade products among young people," she says.

Aligned with this trend, Wang and her team have designed various products with distinct Chinese characteristics. Pet spoons, for example, are crafted in auspicious cloud shapes, drawing inspiration from traditional Chinese mythology.

"Gen Z is highly conscious of environmental and ethical issues," Wang says. She says that Gen Z has shown a preference for green pet food and high-tech products that promote sustainability. "Our best-sellers include eco-friendly toys, biodegradable waste products, and recyclable packages for catteries."

Guided by a profound understanding of Gen Z's consumption values, Wang and her team are at the forefront of shaping the future of pet retail in China. "There are so many driving forces behind Gen Z's approach to pet ownership,"says Wang, "for instance their strong emphasis on sociability and individuality."

Right on cue, Wang's dog popped up from under the table,eagerly seeking a hug. With a smile, she adds, "And of course,companionship and a sense of family."


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