2020 year in review: Veterinary practices perform well despite the pandemic
When you look at the overall numbers for 2020 you might be lulled into thinking it was a fairly normal year for the veterinary industry. But those grinding away in practices across the country and those of us analyzing the data know better; 2020 was anything but ordinary thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, let’s dive into the stats and take a look at some of the key performance indicators by category for the veterinary industry. The data and statistics below are from the Veterinary Industry Tracker.
2020 veterinary industry statistics
First, let’s take a look at year-over-year growth for revenue and visits in 2020. Here we see the impact of when the pandemic first hit in March and April and then a swift rebound in May. Downturns in the trendline for the second half of the year seem to coincide with upticks in COVID-19 cases across the United States.
Overall, 2020 revenue is up 7% and visits are flat compared to 2019 which is pretty dang amazing considering that the pandemic devasted other industries. Veterinary care and pet care are clearly essential.
Veterinary category-specific statistics for 2020
Let’s dig into what makes up that 7% growth in revenue.
Wellness visits, sick visits, boarding and grooming, and product-only purchases started the year off as expected with modest growth. But when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, we saw wild deviation from the norm.
Boarding and grooming revenue and visits took the sharpest decline, reaching its lowest point in April. It rebounded a bit in May and June but failed to regain any semblance of normalcy for the rest of 2020. In December, it declined again while other categories grew, likely due to the sharp contrast between holiday travel in 2019 vs. 2020.
Product-only purchases can be thought of as the “toilet paper” of the veterinary industry. We all remember consumers rushing out to purchase supplies in March when news of COVID-19 hit. Pet owners clearly stocked up on pet food and medications, enabling product-only purchases to be the only category to experience growth in March. As expected, product-only purchases were then flat in April and May as the world entered lockdown. We saw another spike in June, followed by a decline in July and August, before finally reaching its highest growth point of the year in September. Home delivery and online store adoption certainly contributed to product growth during this tumultuous year.
Wellness visits (simply defined as services with a vaccine) had a sharp decline in March that continued into April, as many states restricted non-emergency services at veterinary practices and PPE was in short supply. We then saw a massive increase in wellness visits in May, reaching its highest point of the year in June, as many pet owners played catchup on routine services and even brought newly adopted pets in for the first time. For the remainder of 2020, wellness revenue continued to experience growth, the highest out of all the categories.
Sick visits (simply defined as services without a vaccine) proved to be the most nuanced story of the year. While sick visits declined as expected in March, April, and May, we still saw revenue growth in March and May, with April being flat. A similar correlation can be seen throughout 2020 for sick visits and revenue. It seems that even if fewer pet owners brought in their sick pets, the visits were serious and costly enough to cause revenue growth. Telehealth visits for non-wellness care likely also played a role in this category’s revenue growth.
Percent of total revenue gives us an idea of which of the four categories really carried the team, so to speak, in terms of revenue growth for 2020. Here we see that without a doubt sick visits made up the bulk of revenue. This makes sense considering that in many states there was actually a ban on non-emergency veterinary services. Toenail trims and other electives just had to wait.
2020 in one word: unprecedented
2020 was certainly an unprecedented and disruptive year for the veterinary industry. However, if there’s anything we’ve learned from studying the data, it’s that veterinary care is essential and veterinary professionals are tough, resilient, and exceptionally committed to serving their communities.
Kate Zirkle is a Marketing Manager for Vetsource. She is passionate about animal rescue, personal development, and travel. When not working to advance the veterinary industry, she can be found kayaking, reading, and planning her next trip. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.