Flexible working drives pet boom

Employees at Pets at Home in Lowestoft raised more than £4,000 to feed pets at Christmas time. Pictu

Employees at Pets at Home in Lowestoft raised more than £4,000 to feed pets at Christmas time. Picture: Pets at Home - Credit: Archant

Pet ownership in Norfolk is going through a “baby boom” during the pandemic with a surge of people taking lockdown as an opportunity to add to their households.

Chief executive of Pets at Home, Peter Pritchard said he believes this will see a boost in ongoing pet food sales, vets services and grooming as households welcome new animals into their lives.

He said: “We see this as a baby boom because there has been a significant step up in ownership.

“The long-term requirement is the lifetime of the pet and, with more people working from home, more people can have pets at home.”

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Since the pandemic, the company has enjoyed “essential” retail status - meaning stores could remain open throughout the lockdown - helping sales rise 5.1pc to £574.4 million in the six months to October 8 compared with the same period a year ago.

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In-store sales made at sites including the three stores in Norwich, as well as in Great Yarmouth and Thetford, grew during the period. They were up 5.8pc, helped by a 12.5pc surge in the second quarter during the summer, as lockdown restrictions eased and customers returned to the shops.

Online was particularly strong, with growth of 65.8pc and customers making use of click and collect services. Sales using the company’s online services now account for 15pc of all sales, Mr Pritchard said.

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Pre-tax profits rose 14.6pc to £38.9 million, although the company’s preferred measure of underlying pre-tax profits, which strips out one-off costs, was down 5.1pc to £39.6 million.

Part of the boost has come from flexible working, which he believes will allow office workers to spend more time at home with their new pets.

He said: “People are working on a basis of a flexible lifestyle. There has been a really interesting flip - the old phrase used to be you worked from home now and again to escape the office.

“Now it’s the reverse and people are escaping the home to go to the office.”

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