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Here’s How Much Consumers Will Spend on the Holidays This Year

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They’re more confident in 2017.

With the holiday shopping season upon us, consumers say they will spend an average $967.13 this year, a survey has found.

That’s up 3.4 percent from the $935.58 consumers said they would spend when surveyed at the same time last year, according to the annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics for the National Retail Federation.

“With employment and incomes increasing, consumers are more confident this year and that is reflected in their buying plans for the holidays,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Retailers have been stocking up in expectation of this, and all signs are that this will be a busy holiday season. Retailers are preparing for a rush of consumers leading into Thanksgiving and all through December, and are offering a wide array of merchandise and promotions so shoppers can find great gifts and great deals at the same time.”

For the 11 year in a row, gift cards remain the most popular items on wish lists, requested by 61 percent of those surveyed, followed by clothing and accessories at 55 percent, the highest level the category has seen in 12 years. Two in five (39 percent) would like books, music or movies, the lowest in survey history. Others asked for consumer electronics (33 percent), home décor (24 percent), jewelry (23 percent), personal care or beauty items (21 percent), sporting goods (20 percent), and home improvement items (18 percent).

For the first time in survey history, online is the most popular shopping destination this year, cited by 59 percent of consumers. The survey also found that 57 percent will shop at a department store, 54 percent at a discount store, 46 percent at a grocery store/supermarket and 35 percent at clothing or accessories store. The survey found 27 percent plan to visit an electronics store, 25 percent a small or local business, and 18 percent will go to a crafts or fabrics store.

The consumer survey comes on top of NRF’s annual holiday spending forecast, which takes into account a variety of economic factors and projects that holiday retail sales in November and December this year will be up between 3.6 percent and 4 percent for a total between $678.8 billion and $682 billion.

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In addition, imports set an all-time record high late this summer as retailers brought in an unprecedented amount of merchandise in anticipation of a strong holiday season, and are continuing at unusually high numbers this fall, according to NRF’s monthly Global Port Tracker report.

The survey found that only 27 percent of consumers say their spending will be impacted by concerns about the nation’s economy, down from 32 percent during 2016’s election-year jitters and the lowest level since NRF began asking the question during the Great Recession in 2009.

Holiday spending comes in three main categories – gifts, at $608.06; items such as food, decorations, flowers and greeting cards, at $218.08; and other non-gift items consumers buy for themselves and their families, at $140.99.

Most consumers (59 percent) are waiting until at least November to begin holiday shopping. However, 22 percent started or were planning to start in October and 19 percent in September or earlier. Of the early shoppers, 65 percent say they are trying to spread out their budgets while 49 percent do not want the stress of last-minute shopping and 48 percent want to avoid the crowds.

“While many consumers are holding off until November or later to start their holiday shopping, retailers should be prepared for high traffic online and in stores come Thanksgiving weekend as customers start tackling their lists,” Prosper Insights Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “Although sales will remain an important factor for most consumers, many will lean on convenient locations and easy-to-use websites or mobile apps along with free shipping to complete their purchases.”

The survey of 7,349 consumers was conducted Oct. 3-10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

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US Total Pet Spending Climbs to $78.6B

Growth was muted compared to the prior year.

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Total pet spending in the U.S. climbed by 1.9 percent in 2018 to reach $78.6 billion, according to the Pet Business Professor blog.

The $1.47 billion increase was well below the $9.84 billion jump seen in 2017, the blog’s John Gibbons writes.

Here’s how the market shook out by segment in 2018:

  • Food: -$2.27B (-7.3%) decrease
  • Supplies: $1.22B (+6.6%) increase
  • Veterinary: $0.56B (+2.7%) increase
  • Services: $1.95B (+28.9%) increase

A mix of factors led to the relatively muted growth.

“The FDA warning regarding grain free dog food wreaked havoc in the second half and the new tariffs on supplies flattened spending during that period,” explains. “Veterinary prices turned up again resulting in a net “no gain” in the amount purchased by consumers.”

Additionally, he said, many young adults who’d been living with their parents ended up moving out with their pets in tow.

Services segment “saved the year with a spectacular increase in spending as consumers finally responded to the convenience of significantly more outlets,” he writes.

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Purina Opens $320M Factory

Currently nearly 200 employees work at the plant.

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HARTWELL, GA — Nestlé Purina PetCare Co. recently commemorated the opening of its 21st factory in the U.S. in Hartwell, GA.

With a total investment of more than $320 million, the new Hartwell factory is Purina’s first new U.S. factory in two decades and represents Nestlé’s single largest investment in a pet care facility in the last decade in the U.S., Canada and Latin America. Currently nearly 200 employees work at the Hartwell facility, and the number will grow to 240 as new lines and other expansions at the site are completed over the next few years, the company said in a press release. Purina also operates a manufacturing facility in Fairburn, Georgia, which employs 350 people.

“Nestlé Purina is focused on delivering world-class products and is one of our key growth pillars for Nestlé,” said Laurent Freixe, Nestlé CEO for the Americas. “Purina is in a position of strength for long-term sustainable growth and this investment in Hartwell demonstrates Nestlé’s commitment to continually innovate and shape the future of pet care.”

Purina announced its investment in Hartwell in 2017 and began initial operations of a distribution center at the site in spring 2018. The company purchased a long-idled textile facility that it set out to remake and rebuild with the installation of modern equipment and technology for production of brands including Fancy Feast. The opening marks the first step in launching the Hartwell factory’s production.

“Through this investment in Hartwell, Purina is continuing to deliver science-based nutrition made to the highest standards of quality and safety that pet owners have come to trust for more than 90 years,” said Joseph Sivewright, Purina CEO. “Purina’s Hartwell team is critical to helping us deliver quality nutrition so pets can live longer, healthier lives with their owners. We’re very excited to be a part of the Hartwell community, and we’re proud of the great teamwork by everyone involved to build a world-class facility that will operate in a sustainable way.”

The Hartwell factory is using innovative water conservation and treatment methods, aims to be powered by 100 percent renewable electricity in the near future and currently sends zero waste for disposal to traditional landfills, instead utilizing composting, recycling and energy recovery, according to the release.

Purina’s investment in Hartwell also makes a significant contribution to the local economy and community. Purina has engaged with the community since work began in early 2018 by actively supporting local pet shelters and rescues, education, civic causes and hunger relief.

At the grand opening ceremony for the new factory, Purina also announced a $20,000 donation to the Northeast Georgia Council on Domestic Violence as part of its Purple Leash Project, a partnership between Purina and national non-profit RedRover.

“I am proud to congratulate Purina on the opening of their 21st U.S. factory in Hart County,” said Georgia Gov. Brian P. Kemp. “As one of the nation’s leading pet food companies, Purina’s expansion into Hartwell and continued commitment in Fairburn are creating exciting opportunities for hardworking Georgians and their families, and I am grateful for their investment in our state. I am excited to see another member of the Georgia Made family grow their operations, and I have no doubt that our top-notch workforce will ensure Purina’s continued success in the years ahead.”

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10,000 Dogs Wanted: Study Will Look at Canine Aging

It’s called the Dog Aging Project.

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(PRESS RELEASE) Everyone who loves a dog wants the animal, whether pet or work companion, to enjoy as many years as possible. Learning the whys behind the length and strength of dogs’ lifespans has become the impetus for the largest research data-gathering program of its kind, the Dog Aging Project.

The initiative is jointly operated by the University of Washington School of Medicine and the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. It will create a national community of dogs, owners, veterinarians, researchers and volunteers, all working together to advance knowledge about how genes, habits and the environment influence dog aging.

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Although the project has been in its preliminary stages for a while, its full-throttle launch was announced Nov. 14 at the annual Gerontological Society of America meeting in Austin, TX. After that date, owners can nominate their canine as a candidate on the Dog Aging Project website.

Nomination involves creating a secure user portal and providing comprehensive health and lifestyle information about the dog through questionnaires and the sharing of veterinary medical records.

Dogs of every age, from puppy to senior; all sizes, from miniature to huge; male and female; neutered or not; and living in all types of locations are invited to be nominated. Healthy dogs and those with chronic illness will be considered.

“All owners who complete the nomination process will become Dog Aging Project citizen scientists and their dogs will become members of the Dog Aging Project ‘pack.’ Their information will allow us to begin carrying out important research on aging in dogs,” said one of the project’s trio of directors, biology of aging expert Daniel Promislow, professor of pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine and a UW professor of biology.

Also leading the multi-institutional project are veterinarian Dr. Kate Creevy, associate professor of veterinary internal medicine at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and longevity and healthspan researcher Matt Kaeberlein, a professor of pathology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. More than 40 other researchers from a variety of fields and institutions will join them in this endeavor.

“Aging is the major cause of the most common diseases, like cancer and heart problems. Dogs age more rapidly than people do and get many of our same diseases of aging, including cognitive decline,” said Kaeberlein. “They also share our living environment and have a diverse genetic makeup. This project will contribute broadly to knowledge about aging in dogs and in people.”

Over the 10-year project, scientists will gather information on the 10,000 enrolled dogs in a collaborative, open-data platform. This means that, like the Framingham Heart Study and the All of Us research program, the massive amount of data can be analyzed by scientists around the world in a variety of ways. For this study, the largest of its kind ever undertaken, the dogs will be followed throughout their lifetimes.

“We are excited to work with companion dogs in this research program. As a veterinarian, it is important to me that our work benefits dogs directly. But our work with dogs has the added value of shedding light on the human aging experience as well,” Creevy said.

The researchers emphasized that their goal is not merely to increase life expectancy; their target is not lifespan, but healthspan, which refers to the period of life spent free from disease. Improved quality of life in advanced age is a goal many people have for their dogs and for themselves.

The Dog Aging Project will have four key endeavors:

  1. New metrics of canine aging: The research team will develop tests to measure each dog’s changes in physical function as it gets older. There are such tests in older human adults, like moving from seated to standing, grip devices, or age-specific normal ranges on blood chemistry values. For dogs, however, aside from owner observations, there are few standardized assessments.
  2. Genetics of aging: Genome sequencing data from all 10,000 dogs will be integrated with health measurements and behavioral traits in comprehensive genome-wide association studies.
  3. Systems biology of aging: Scientists will look for molecular predictors of disease, decline or longevity.
  4. Medication intervention study: About 500 middle-aged dogs will be part of a trial to assess the effects of rapamycin on cognition, heart function, healthspan, and lifespan.

The project is supported by a federal grant from the National Institute on Aging at the National Institute of Health (UI19AG057337) and private donations.

The participating institutions are:

Core Research Leads

Purdue University

Princeton University

Texas A&M University

Arizona State University

Cornell University

University of Massachusetts Medical School

Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard

University of Washington College of Arts & Sciences

University of Washington School of Medicine

University of Washington School of Public Health

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Seattle Children’s Hospital

Veterinary Schools

Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine

North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine

Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences

Oregon State University Carlson College of Veterinary Medicine

Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Credit: UW Medicine

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