Sean Kelly, Head of Supply Chain, Vital Pet Group, explains how pet retail has seen large growth across the sector, and why it has a track record of being recession resistant

‘Love your pet? You are not alone – the rapid rise in pet ownership has been one of the few upsides to the pandemic, as people increasingly work from home. Vital Pet Group is the largest pet product distributor in the UK and thanks to this rise, an increase in online shopping and the ability for pet retail to remain open as essential businesses, we’ve seen strong growth across the sector.

‘It’s perhaps not too surprising though, as pet has a track record of being recession resistant, with spending on pet increasing rapidly during previous recessions. Already the smart money is moving into pet companies to provide a safe haven in troubled times. Factor in that 88% of people admit to spending in excess of £50 on gifts for their pets and it’s clearly a big opportunity for the gifting market.’

Find your seasonal sweet spot…

‘While many aspects of pet care require some expertise – food and health care in particular – there is increasing demand for gifts that align with trends in fashion or homeware, such as feeding bowls, treat jars, pet clothing and bedding to match interiors. Expect to see collaborations with brands such as Cath Kidston and Joules and regularly refreshed collections in a sector that’s increasingly influenced by seasonality.


‘It’s never too early to think about buying for the biggest shopping season of the year and our Christmas 2021 catalogue provides three key collections: Festive, Starry Nights and Whimsical, taking inspiration from theatrical design, kitsch charm and crisp winter nights. It all reflects the key drivers in this market, which are increased humanisation of pets and increased premiumisation of pet purchases.’

Tail-wagging experiences

‘As members of the family, pets are benefiting from foody treats, often bought on impulse, with the market growing for treats with functional benefits such as teeth cleaning and vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free treats aligning with human health trends. If your outlet is pet friendly, why not try a display at the point of purchase or use a tasty treat to bond with your customer’s furry best friend?

‘Natural and eco-friendly categories have been in steady growth in recent years, shown not just in foods and treating but also high-end natural grooming products such as nose balms, paw sanitisers and coat detangler sprays.

‘Creating positive customer experiences, in-store theatre and innovation are all key in this marketplace and whether it’s a fill-a-hamper opportunity or a bespoke FSDU, we have the resources to fit all needs. Go large with over 16,000 brands to choose from or buy to create a niche with ExpressPick offering free next day delivery across thousands of products on orders over £60. For those seeking to bring alive their own vision, there’s even scope to work with the experts in our innovation centre to design and manufacture their own, unique pet products.’

Sniff out the opportunity

‘With exclusive ranges and leading brands alike, at Vital we can provide advice on the best ranges to fit the outlet – whether that’s a city location with high levels of cat ownership, or an outlet that serves the needs of pet owners enjoying staycations.’

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