A king’s best friend: Thailand is experiencing a boom in pet ownership

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BANGKOK — Thailand is emerging as one of the fastest growing markets for the pet industry, with the bonanza sparked by the effects of COVID isolation and a special royal bond.

The boom was on full display at last month’s Pet Expo, held on the outskirts of Bangkok. Tens of thousands of people packed the more than 300 stalls featuring hawkers selling pet food, toys and services connecting animals in shelters to new owners.

“I got them 10% off the regular price,” said a visitor with three Chihuahuas, referring to a bag full of dog treats and dental care products.

The expo drew 127,000 people over its four days, surpassing its attendance in 2019, even though it was held in a smaller venue.

Thailand’s pet market was worth 44 billion baht ($1.2 billion) in 2021, according to local financial group Krungthai Bank. The market is expected to reach 66.7 billion baht by 2026.

According to a survey, 70% of pet owners see their pets as part of the family. This link has apparently led to increased spending on pet care.

Pet ownership has skyrocketed during the pandemic as people turn to animals to compensate for a loss of human conduct as lockdowns force people to stay home.

However, the rise in popularity of pets goes beyond the pandemic. The Thai royal family is believed to have laid the foundation for the pet boom.

King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the former monarch who died in 2016, was known to have adopted a stray puppy in Bangkok. The media regularly covered the king with his dog, Tongdaeng, in tow during visits to provinces.

Because the public loved Bhumibol, many citizens began to treat dogs with more respect. Stray dog ​​shelters are said to have been created in line with this trend.

Thai companies have entered the pet market to take advantage of the boom. Store operator Central Retail launched a chain, Pet n’ Me, in Bangkok last October.

“Central Retail will open stores at a rate of four to eight locations per year,” according to Ty Chirathivat, the company’s chief financial officer. The outlets will be housed in malls, such as Central Retail’s Robinson Lifestyle chain of malls. The group will also roll out pet salons and veterinary clinics.

“It will achieve annual sales of 2 billion baht by 2027, making it the largest pet supply chain in the country,” Ty said.

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