Retail

Pets at Home sales hit £1bn as UK animal ownership hits ‘all-time high’


Pets at Home’s revenues surpassed £1bn for the first time, driven by a surge in pet ownership across the UK during lockdown.

Sales at the Manchester-based group leapt by 8 per cent to £1.1bn in the year to March 21, the company said on Thursday, adding that it was targeting revenue growth of up to £600m in the “medium term”.

The company, which is the UK’s largest pet supplies retailer and operates more than 450 stores and 300 pet grooming salons nationwide, anticipated underlying pre-tax profit of between £120m and £130m this financial year, higher than analysts’ expectations.

Pet care businesses were declared “essential” during the lockdown, with Pets at Home keeping all its stores open.

Peter Pritchard, chief executive of Pets at Home, told the Financial Times he was planning £70m of investment to “bolster” his company’s position in the pet care market as restrictions eased.

“Even if we maintain our share of the market, we expect a great chunk of revenue growth as the number of pets is at an all-time high, so they will require products long-term,” he said.

“But we also see even bigger opportunities in our veterinary business and our continued shift to digital.”

According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, 3.2m UK households purchased a pet during lockdown, with 16- to 35-year-olds accounting for 59 per cent of new owners.

Pritchard said his company had witnessed particularly high growth among “thirtysomethings who were opting to buy a pet before having a child”.

Jonathan Pritchard, an analyst at Peel Hunt, said the “baby boom” in pet ownership now looked like “a step-up rather than a shortlived spike”.

“If you buy a dog, it’s likely to live for at least 12 years and often requires greater care towards the end of its life, so for pet care businesses the jump in trading during lockdown is more like a permanent shift,” he said.

The company invested £30m in pandemic-related costs last financial year, including personal protective equipment for staff and refitting stores to comply with social distancing rules.

Pets at Home’s Pritchard believed the company was better placed to adapt if the coronavirus variant first identified in India slowed or reversed the UK’s plan to ease restrictions.

“We all recognise that Covid will be with us for some time — whether it be the Indian variant or something else,” he said. “We adapted at the speed of light before and we can do it again.”



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