By Emmett Dulaney
For The Herald Bulletin
I am always sad to see a business close, but was particularly moved by the closing of Speck’s Pet Supplies last week. So upset, in fact, that I actually had to think about it for a while to see if I could interpret why. After all, theoretically I should be more bothered by the closing of the KFC since it means I have to drive farther for the $5 lunch box now than by the closing of a store that I haven’t been in that much recently.
After analyzing it for a bit, I came up with two reasons why I was troubled. The first was purely nostalgia. When my kids were little, my wife and I foolishly made a mistake of rotating through each child and letting them pick what the family would have as a pet (only one or two at a time, mind you). By not putting further parameters on the oldest child, that meant that we couldn’t put restrictions on the younger ones either and the whole lot of them turned out to be much more creative in what they selected than I imagined they ever would. We wound up with lizards and birds and a lot of what you might find at a really poorly run zoo. Having no experience with these creatures, or the diet they required, I found myself in Speck’s often over the course of a few years depending on them to help with whatever was needed at that moment. I will always be grateful that they had what was required to keep some strange animal healthy week after week.
The second reason has to do with a recession many years ago. My father — in need of a venture that would feed the family — seriously considered opening a pet-related business before choosing to pursue another option. He reasoned that Americans spend an awful lot of money on their pets, and he thought that when the economy turned bad they would spend even more. Lacking the normal disposable income to go out to eat, to go to movies, and so on, families would spend a lot of time at home, he calculated, and that meant spending more time with their dogs and cats. Those animals would then come to be considered an even bigger part of the family than usual and “parents” would be more likely to spoil them with a few additional dollars being spent on toys and treats. I laughed my fool head off at his assertion.
Believe it or not, though, he was right and the numbers bear him out. Americans spent over $53 billion on pets last year and are expected to spend over $55 billion this year. This is double what it was only a few years ago and the numbers have increased every year for the past 20 despite economic recessions, downturns, etc. Whether times are good or bad, Americans will spend more money on their pets each and every year. There are not a lot of other things that you can say that about.
It is a sad commentary that the store here could not stay in business while the Speck’s chain opened two stores in neighboring communities within the past month. The tear I shed was genuine.
Emmett Dulaney is the author of several books on technology and an Anderson resident. His column appears Tuesdays.