Pet subjects helping to drive chain’s sales

PET owners wanting to keep track of their cats and dogs and make sure they are getting the right nutrition helped drive a hike in sales at nationwide chain Pets at Home.

The pet food and accessories firm said like-for-like sales grew 3.2 per cent in the half-year to October 11 as it doubled the number of in-store pet nutrition consultants and rolled out a microchipping service to each of its 331 outlets.

A recent television advertising campaign also helped see a surge in demand for advanced nutritional advice and help on how to treat fleas and worming.

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Cheshire-headquartered Pets at Home, which employs 5,900 staff, said half-year sales growth was more than double the 1.3 per cent rise delivered over the year to March 29.

It posted a 0.5 per cent increase in underlying earnings to £91.7m in the year, although this marked a sharp slowdown on the 10.3 per cent growth seen the previous year.

Nick Wood, chief executive, said retail conditions had been tough over the year and warned there was “a great deal of uncertainty for consumers with little prospect of any real improvement in disposable incomes in the near future”.

But he added recent expansion into areas such as micro-chipping and nutritional advice should continue to drive sales higher.

Pets at Home now also has 74 in-store pet grooming salons and 106 veterinary practices and is expanding further across the UK, adding 32 stores in the last financial year.

It recently launched a second distribution centre and global sourcing operation in Hong Kong to support its expansion.

Mr Wood took the reins after his predecessor Matt Davies stepped down following a seven-year tenure as chief executive, which saw him guide the business through two private equity takeovers.