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Kennel Club confirms registration drop

Issue: 22/11/2019

Last week we reported that KC Registrations in the quarter to September 2019 had fallen 14.2% as compared to the same quarter in 2018. We also said that this was the fourth successive quarter in which registration reductions have taken place. The percentage decreases in each quarter since October 2018 have been 4.8%, 8.4%, 3.0% and 14.2% respectively.
This all means that in the first nine months of this year total registrations were down 16,793 (8.8%) as compared to last year. We suggested last week that this equates to an estimated reduction in revenue for the Kennel Club of over £200,000 and, with the resulting transfer revenue also likely to be down, the total fall in revenue must be around at least the £350,000 mark – a significant blow to the Kennel Club’s finances.
These volume registration figures were confirmed at the KC SGM last week when Barry Brackner, a consultant employed by the KC to evaluate this problem, made a presentation to Members. 
He confirmed that the KC was now forecasting registrations to be down 8.8% for the whole of 2019. That actually assumes a considerable improvement in quarter four as compared to quarter three. 
As we suspected last week, transfers too are in decline and are forecasted to be down 6.4% by the end of the year.

Alarming facts

Amongst the alarming pieces of information given to Members was that the KC is not the top destination that people go to so as to find a puppy, and that the market for non-pedigree dogs appears to be growing.
Mr Brackner said “It is tempting to assume the decline is breed specific led. Analysis has suggested that if a breed declines significantly it is replaced by a new “vogue” breed. However analysis shows that currently some of the “vogue” breeds are designer cross breeds.”
He suggested that more relevant means of measuring this issue than looking at specific breeds will be to consider:
• The number of breeders
• Number of litters by breeder
• Average litter size
• Rates of Transfers of ownership
• The size of the market and how the mix between pedigree and cross breeds has changed over the last 10 years.
Mr Brackner and his company have focussed their research and analysis on these key drivers and the following has emerged:
As OUR DOGS pointed out last week, the new breeder licensing scheme in October 2018 has had a major effect. The number of breeders is in decline - by 6%, litter volumes are in decline by 8.91%, yet average litter sizes are increasing year on year. 

Breeder categories

Apparently 81% of KC breeders who register dogs breed only one litter per year and this in turn means that nearly 95% of KC registered puppies come from those who breed just one or two litters per year.
The falls in this category of breeder (small breeder) and in those breeding over four litters a year have been relatively small. This is because neither of these groups were much affected by the licensing regulation changes. Large scale breeders always had to be licensed, and the very small breeders are scarcely affected. 
However, as one might expect, because they came into licensing scope last October, a significant drop has been seen in breeders who breed three or four litters a year. Their number has dropped by around as much as 50% since the new licensing laws came into force in October 2018.

Imports high

The view is that the total market size for dogs remains static but it is estimated that the number of new puppies each year is around 550 K of which the KC represents only 43% and – staggeringly – imports account for 34% of the puppies sold each year and non-pedigree dogs account for 23%. 
It is also estimated that pedigree dog ownership over the last ten years has dropped from 80% - 70%. 

Reasons for choosing
 
People are apparently thought to choose non pedigree dogs for their looks and they rank health at only 23% of their reason for choosing, whereas the purchasers of KC registered dogs rank health at 39% as their reason for choosing a KC registered dog. 
In the survey used when asked “How did you find out about your puppy?” the first listed at 33.02% was ‘friend or family member’, second place at 22.07% listed Gumtree or Epuz and only at third place at 16.27% came the KC.
When asked why they looked for a KC registered puppy, respondents gave as first place at 60.09% “Trust the breeder”, second place at 55.54% was “I can trace the ancestry” and third place at 37.99% meant that the puppy would be healthier.
It was recognised that the KC is not seen as the place to find a puppy and questions were asked if the Kennel Club has an image problem to overcome.

What’s the answer

How does the Kennel Club plan to remedy this situation? The following were listed as the main ways that the problem will be tackled: 
By: 
• Bringing local authorities into the KC to engage and educate them in order to ensure they see the KC as a support system and thus ensure the KC is able to better steer them. 
• Implementing a Marketing, Public Relations and Communications campaign to recruit more breeders and maintain and grow existing volume breeders. 
• Refocusing existing Marketing, PR and Communications plans to educate breeders on licencing, and lobby the government whilst promoting the pedigree dog 
• Adding value to KC breeders through a reward system with the objective of ensuring the benefits on offer outweigh the cost of registering the litter. 
• Enabling breeders to effect the transfer of ownership for all puppies
• Offering breeders free advertising on the KC Find a puppy service
• Establishing more combi breed DNA health tests at competitive pricing 
• Establishing greater reach to pet owners and dog breeders 
• Working with breed clubs and committees to understand how the KC can further support and engage breeders.

OUR DOGS COMMENT: 

We ought to be relieved that the KC Board seems at last to have recognised the need for it to be more proactive in the lobbying of politicians, lawmakers, and local authorities. The cynics would comment that the report outlined above and the plans delivered at last week’s SGM look a shade like closing the door after the registration and licensing horses have bolted. But to use another common saying: “Better late than never!”
The Kennel Club seems to be dismissing the thought that fluctuations in what it calls individual ‘Vogue’ breeds are not a significant factor. We are not sure that this is correct and have pointed out for some years that the vast majority of the upswing in registrations between 2014 and 2018 (masking an underlying falling trend) was caused to a certain extent by increases in two breeds - the French Bulldog and the Pug. The flattening off of that fashion and the reduction in these breeds means that the real underlying downward trend is now plain to see.
One problem for the Kennel Club going forward may well be that, though it wants to “Work with breed clubs and committees to understand how the KC can further support and engage breeders” some of the clubs and what you might call ‘purist breeders’ may not be as keen as the KC to see puppy numbers increasing. 
There is an unfortunate tendency with some breed clubs to believe that the number of their breed being produced should be reduced rather than increased. There is often an inbuilt prejudice against people, even successful show people, who breed a large number of puppies each year. They are often frowned upon.
This is surely a misguided attitude. Breed clubs should remember that if there is a demand for their breed and there is not a large enough supply of puppies coming from responsible purist breeders, then that demand will not go away. Potential buyers will simply go elsewhere for their puppies. That in turn will only serve to encourage the very largest volume puppy farmers to enter the market and fill the hole left by breed club members not producing enough pups to service the underlying demand. 
Persuading some breed clubs of this may not be an easy task. 


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