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Pet stores lose profit to supermarkets and online shops

A NATIONAL survey of pet retailers conducted by the Pet Care Trust (PCT) has shown a drop in the numbers using petshops for their purchases.

The three yearly 'State of the Sector Survey' found that the average number of customers shopping at the their usual pet store at least once a month has fallen 46% from 906 in 2005 to 490 last year.

More worrying for pet retailers is that the survey was carried out in May of 2008 before the economic crisis took full effect, and this suggests that the figures may have decreased yet again in the meantime. With this in mind, the PCT is in the process of conducting a further, smaller survey to judge how retailers have been further affected since May.

Parking problems

Several reasons have been suggested for the downturn in customer levels, with 51.6% of retailers blaming city-centre parking restrictions.

Pet Care Trust chief executive Janet Nunn said: ‘Since 2005, our survey of 2,820 pet retailers shows that they have seen their customer base fall by half.

‘This is a shocking trend. And since parking remains ahead of all other business issues facing pet retailers, flagged by over half as the most significant factor affecting them, it is not within their control.’

As a result of these findings the Trust has said it will press central government for action on the issue and will be encouraging cooperation between the affected retailers and other local traders to lobby their local councils.

Further research suggested that another cause for the drop in pet store trade is the Internet for there has been a tremendous increase in online pet trading with 48.7% of companies in the sector having business websites - a third of which can accept orders and payments online. The survey shows that this is an increase of just over 10% since 2005.

On an even more discouraging note, according to the survey, although the average amount spent in-store was £14.79 last year compared with £13.89 in 2005, this increase is insignificant compared to the rising costs being experienced by retailers.

When asked about the future of their businesses almost half of the retailers questioned had a generally positive outlook with 48% saying they expected their revenue to increase in one year’s time. However, it is important to remember that these responses were given pre-recession...

Supermarket sweep

It does not appear that pet owners are cutting back on their expenditure as yet but appear to be looking to lower costs by shopping at supermarkets which they perceive as offering better value for money. This may encourage supermarkets to stock a wide range of pet foods and pet accessories.

The implications of the survey suggests a grim outlook for the world of dogs, and OUR DOGS has learned that show committees are braced for significant falls in income in the coming year as exhibitors tighten their belts and entries drop during 2009 reflecting the pet retailers’ decreasing statistics. However, there may be a silver lining in that the world of dogs may see an increase in Open show entries since they are less of a drain on exhibitors’ bank balances - being less expensive to enter and usually involve less travelling. In support of this suggestion is that some Open shows have seen an increase this year. Maidenhead CS, for instance, was up some 200 dogs - a significant percentage improvement on 2008.

The Pet Care Trust is a national pet care education charity that promotes responsible pet ownership. The Trust currently has around 1,550 members who have access to a range of benefits including services, products, advice and information that help them to develop their businesses.

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