Pets at Home achieved sales of more than £1bn for the first time as the number of people in the UK with pets jumped during lockdowns.
The retailer and vet chain estimated that UK pet numbers have increased by 8% during a year in which many people were stuck at home. The boom has even caused pet food shortages.
The pandemic has “structurally altered the dynamics of the UK pet care market”, the company said, with increased working from home removing a barrier to pet ownership and increasing the emotional attachment to – and willingness to spend on – animals.
Pets at Home revenues grew by 7.9% to £1.1bn in the year to 25 March, which coincided almost exactly with the start of the UK’s lockdowns. That was a record in the company’s 30-year history.
The company said there had been a pet “baby boom”. Sales of kitten and puppy products surged by 37% and 26% respectively, with pet training products and even heated puppy beds in particular demand. Even less cuddly fish tank sales increased.
Profits grew to £116m despite £30m of Covid-19-related costs, although underlying profits were flat once the £30m sale of five pet hospitals were taken into account.
Pets at Home said it expects the changes to last and believes it can boost sales by a further £600m thanks to increased ownership as well as owners spending more on their animals.
This includes what it dubbed the “humanisation” of pampered pets by owners who are then willing to spend more. Pets at Home cited the growth of more expensive food, luxury items like paddling pools for dogs, and “pet fashion”, with dog coat sales up by 24% during the year.
Peter Pritchard, Pets at Home’s chief executive, said: “We ended this unprecedented year a far stronger pet care business. Despite challenges to how we were able to do business, we grew our market share across all channels and our underlying growth trajectory accelerated.
“Covid-19 has structurally changed the dynamics of the pet care market.”
Pritchard added that the company will continue to spend on infrastructure, digitising the business, and using its data on customers to target further growth.