Doggie spa days and advent calendars fuel festive sales boom for Pets at Home

Pets at Home is expecting its biggest ever Christmas, with a surge in sales of dog spa days and advent calendars, as it launches a Deliveroo-style quick delivery service to meet rising demand from new owners.Sales at the retailer rose by 18% to almost £678m in the six months to 7 October, helping to boost profits by 81% to £70.6m for the period. The company said it now anticipated making full-year profits at the top end of expectations as pet ownership, which rose during the Covid pandemic, continued to grow at levels stronger than predicted.

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The group has already sold 130,000 dog advent calendars, up by almost a fifth on last year, as well as 19,000 pet Santa hats. About 30,000 dogs are expected to be booked in for a grooming session before Christmas , with the vast majority of those spots already booked.Peter Pritchard, the chief executive, said: “Without question the biggest driver is change in people’s working practices towards working from home. [Being away from home] was always the biggest barrier to dog ownership and now many people are working three days a week in the office, if that.”

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He said the biggest growth in pet ownership was among people in their 20s and 30s who were typically getting a dog or cat as a step towards having a family. He said the trend had been encouraged by more workplaces and social settings, such as shops and pubs, now accepting pets. “There has been a fundamental shift, driven by Covid,” he said.

The company now predicts it will make annual sales of £2.3bn over the medium term, up from £1.4bn last year.

Pritchard said the market was expected to grow by up to 5% a year, up from between 3% and 4% in the past, with the number of people signing up to its pet care plan increasing 45% and its puppy and kitten club membership doubling year on year.

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Last week the company began offering fast-track delivery of pet food and other products from 35 stores, and it is expected to extend the service across the country in the next two years.

Pritchard said the service was intended to “out-convenience Amazon” as the group used its store presence to get items to buyers more quickly.

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With millions more pet owners and a trend towards humanisation of animals – through special food, clothing and gifts – Pets at Home is predicting its best ever Christmas sales.

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Pritchard said Pets at Home was not immune to widespread supply chain problems but had been somewhat insulated as it bought 80% of its products in the UK and directly employed its own HGV drivers.

He said the company’s products had a long shelf-life and so items for Christmas had arrived in its warehouses in June ready for the peak selling season. He said the group had not suffered from a shortage of vets any more than in prior years as its practices were run by owner-managers who typically stayed with Pets at Home for 20 years.

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“We are not anticipating any major issues,” he said.