Tuesday, September 28News That Matters

Pets At Home store sales top £1bn after pandemic boost in ownership

A surge in pet ownership during the pandemic has helped Pets At Home grow annual store sales to more than £1bn for the first time.

Puppy blankets and pet paddling pools were among the products in demand as lockdowns prompted more people to make the “emotional and financial investment” in an animal companion.

Britain’s pet population grew by an estimated 8% in the 12 months following the first lockdown, the company said.

Undated handout image provided by Pets At Home 27/5/21 Pic: Pets At Home
Image: The pandemic has removed barriers to pet ownership, Pets At Home said Pic: Pets At Home

That helped lift the group’s retail revenues by 8.7% to £1.02bn in the year to 25 March while overall sales – also including its vet division – grew by 7.9% to £1.14bn.

The company, which has more than 450 stores, reported a 26% sales increase for puppy products including comforting blankets and soft plush beds, while it said toys also performed strongly – especially those designed to train new pets.

Kitten product sales grew by 37% while there was also growth for fish tanks and ornaments.

Last summer’s warm weather meant a 30% increase in products designed to keep pets cool including cooling mats and paddling pools.

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Pets At Home signed up an average of 9,000 new customers a week to its vet practices.

Chief executive Peter Pritchard said: “The pandemic has brought about permanent changes to the way we work and spend our leisure time, removing historical barriers to pet ownership and strengthening the emotional bond between people and their pets.

Pets At Home shares have climbed sharply since last year
Image: Pets At Home shares have climbed sharply over the past year

“We have taken a greater share of this growing market and are emerging from the pandemic a stronger business.

“Looking ahead, through the investments we are making and the enlarged pet population, we see a further £600m customer revenue opportunity over the medium term.”

Despite the revenue growth, Pets At Home saw underlying profits – stripping out the benefit from a sale of part of the business – fall by 6.4% to £87.5m.

But that was after £30m in COVID-19 costs including the impact of restrictions on pet grooming and sales, social distancing measures and personal protective equipment, and a staff bonus.

Pets At Home also voluntarily repaid £28.9m in business rates relief.

Prior to the pandemic, dog and cat numbers in Britain had been stable, with pet market growth dependent on the increase in demand for premium products, healthcare and nutrition.

But the transformation in lifestyles wrought by a series of lockdowns and work-from-home policies has boosted ownership.

The Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association estimates that more than three million households have acquired a pet since the start of the pandemic.

Shares in Pets At Home, which have risen sharply over the past year, fell 3% on its latest update.