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Pandemic pet boom helps South Coast shops survive brutal year

Christmas pet toys
Ryan Fish/KEYT
Holiday pet toys remain a popular gift for families.

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Small pet shops across the South Coast are weathering 2020's small business struggles as more families adopt animals during the pandemic.

A Santa Barbara Humane Society spokesperson says its combined campuses in Santa Barbara and Santa Maria have facilitated more than 1,300 adoptions so far this year--better than 60 percent of last year's number during the same period, despite an extended closure and reduced animal intake due to the pandemic.

The rush to find a pet isn't slowing down yet, either. December is currently on track to be the Humane Society's busiest adoption month since the pandemic began.

Many pet supply shops are seeing better sales this year compared to 2019. New customers are coming in and many old ones are buying more, with additional pets joining their families.

Sensational Pets in Santa Barbara lost significant revenue when its traveling animal shows and expos were canceled this year, but the store itself is staying busy.

“Overall, it’s been kind of a net loss for us [this year],” said owner Matt Hopper. “But we’ve gained a whole lot more local buyers. More customers have been coming into the store. Sales have been going up. Transactions have been going up. So we’ve been getting a ton of support from our local community, for sure.”

Hopper says the shop specializes in reptiles, which also have been popular pets to take home this year.

“I know a lot of my customers have allergy issues, dander issues,” he said. “Reptiles and fish don’t have either of those.”

Hopper says this year has taught him how to adjust in order to keep his small business going during a tumultuous year. He's thankful to have kept his staff on the payroll.

“We just get a lot of new recurring customers based on the time we invest in them,” he said. “Very, very thankful, ‘cause that means we’ve done something right.”

Article Topic Follows: Money and Business

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Ryan Fish

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