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Edmonton businesses cashing in on $6.5B pet product market

Two local pet photographers and an Edmonton grooming studio are hoping to make it in an increasingly competitive luxury pet market.

For some pet owners, there are no limits to what they will spend on their furry friends

Some pet owners are willing to spend big bucks to keep their four-footed friends well looked after. (CBC)

For some pet owners, there are no limits to what they will spend on their furry friends.

Canadians spent nearly $6.5 billion on luxury pet products and treatments in 2013 and trendwatchers forecast that number will rise to $8.3 billion by 2018.

But not all specialty pet stores will survive in the saturated and highly-competitive market, said University of Alberta retail expert Emily Salsbury.

Pet store giant Petcetera is closing down after years of disappointing numbers.

"Just with Pet Value and Global Pet Foods coming downtown, it really is going to be the survival of the fittest,” said Salsbury. “There's companies ... like HomeSense that have come into the game and started putting pet areas inside their stores at a fraction of the cost."

However, two smaller Edmonton companies are hoping to make it in the increasingly tight market.

Bright lights, pet photos

It takes more than a squeaky toy to capture Maddy's best side. The Maltese is just one of many customers at the Chewed Slippers Photography in west Edmonton.

The studio is owned by long-time friends, Lorena Smalley and Amanda Adkins, who each left their previous studios to join forces in the business partnership.

"When people first hear I shut down my successful baby photography business to open a pet photography studio, they think it's funny – except pet owners. The pet owners love it," said Smalley.

A typical photo shoot starts at $125. Portrait packages cost owners $395.

And, the photographers say, business is good.

"One of the most interesting phone calls we got was a request to do 20 snakes. That's not something Lorena and I are comfortable with, so we kindly said no thank you," Adkins said, laughing.

Other than snakes, there really is no limit to what animal they will work with.

"We've done hamsters, guinea pigs, love bird, parrots, a bearded dragon," listed Adkins. "That was interesting. As we got down on the floor to shoot, the owner said, 'Watch out it bites!'"  

Grooming as big business

At the Grooming Studio, a popular pet grooming business owned by Liz Dussault, pet owners dish out big bucks for a bath and hand-cut for their four-legged friends.

Dussault provides a wide range of services, from basic clips to not-so-basic fur dyeing and painted pet toenails.

But Dussault says she's not in it for the money.

"It's a labour of love. I will never be a millionaire, I do love what I do. That's why I do it," she said.

Mackenzie Merkl brings Lexie, her Pomeranian-Maltese cross, in for a cut every four weeks.

When asked if there was any limit how much she would spend on her pup, Merkl replied, “Maybe … but so far no. She's got the jackets and the beds and everything,”

“She's pretty spoiled," she added.


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