The boom in pet ownership amid the pandemic has helped Pets at Home notch up its best sales performance since floating on the stock market nearly seven years ago.
Pets at Home said like-for-like retail sales soared by 17.5% in its third quarter to the end of December – with growth picking up pace last month to 19.3%.
The group said it marked the highest quarterly like-for-like sales growth since its stock market debut in 2014.
It comes after the retailer hiked its profit outlook earlier this month on the back of strong trading, revealing it now expects to deliver at least £77 million in underlying pre-tax profits for the full-year to March.
The chain has been boosted by a surge in demand for pets among Britons since the start of the coronavirus crisis, while its essential status has also allowed its stores to remain open throughout lockdowns.
In a sign of the hike in new pet owners, the group said its veterinary service has notched up around 10,000 new customers a week over the past six months.
And new members of its puppy and kitten club jumped 47% in the firm’s third quarter.
Speaking to the PA news agency, Pets at Home group chief executive Peter Pritchard said the group’s performance has been “underpinned by one key factor, which is the rise in pet ownership”.
“Pets have been a lifeline for many in the pandemic.”
He said the group has also seen existing owners ramp up spending on their pets during the crisis.
“People have been spending more money on their pets because they’re spending more time at home with them and doing more with them,” he said.
Pets said like-for-like store sales rose 12.3% in the three months to December 31 despite the second lockdown across England in November.
Its 47-strong vet arm also enjoyed solid trading, with like-for-like revenues up 17.8% in the quarter and surging by 21.4% in December.
The group recently opened two smaller shops in the London area and is looking to take advantage of the recent raft of retail of closures amid the pandemic to expand in the capital.
Mr Pritchard said there was scope for the group to open up to another 20 in London.
“This is about being where pet owners are and there’s lots of pet owners in London – more now than before,” he said.
In response to the pandemic, the group has also recently launched a one-hour click and collect service across its 451-strong store estate, and a “Deliver to Car” service across more than 150 stores.
Its trading has been further buoyed by growing membership of its 6.2 million-strong VIP club as well as the puppy and kitten clubs, with the latter typically spending around a quarter more than non-members.
Pets confirmed it had seen no delays so far to Northern Ireland, where it has 10 stores, amid widespread delivery disruption after Brexit, but added it was “monitoring the situation”.
Andrew Porteous, an analyst at HSBC, said Pets at Home was a “market leader on song”.
“All cylinders of Pets at Home’s business continue to be on fire,” he added.