PETS At Home is riding a wave of enthusiasm from locked down Brits for cats, dogs and other pets.
In the half year to October it saw sales jump 5% to £574 million as folk with newly bought puppies stocked up on ever fancier pet food and pet health care.
Since they are deemed an essential service, Pets’ 451 stores and 440 vets stayed open through lockdown, giving it a clear advantage on other retailers.
A half year divided of 2.5p is payable.
Chief executive Peter Pritchard compares the rise in pet ownership to a baby boom.
“There is a structural change in the market that will be with us for between 12 and 20 years,” he said. Profit slipped 5% to a still healthy £40 million.
Although it does not sell cats or dogs, the care and feeding of them is the bulk of the business.
Ross Hindle, analyst at Third Bridge, said: "With pet shops classed as essential retail, Pets at Home, had the advantage of being able to trade during lockdown.”
"Pets at Home is benefiting from a rise in pet ownership during lockdown and a growing trend of pet food premiumisation. This means a growth in pet accessories as well as increased demand for higher-margin pet foods. The retailer's online sales are now nudging close to 20% penetration.”
Pritchard adds “humanisation” to the premiumisation shift, as folk get ever more protective of pets.
He said: “In the past we just used to eat chickens. Now we want to know where they came from, what life they led,” he said.
Hindle adds: "Pets at Home is expected to outperform the market, with margin expansion aided by a strong private label offering. The big questions are, how much did social distancing and other safety measures impact margins and how sustainable will their success be in 2021?"
The shares opened today at 417p. They have doubled in the last year.