Paddling pools for dogs boost Pets at Home sales

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Pets at Home's full-year retail sales have topped £1bn for the first time as animal lovers spend more money on the "humanisation" of their pets, including paddling pools for dogs.

The retailer said pet ownership had grown by 8% over the last year as Covid forced more people to work from home.

Last year's hot summer saw it sell out of pools, though recent wet weather has increased demand for canine rain coats.

However, Pets at Home reported a drop in underlying pre-tax profits.

The company said profits for the year to 25 March fell by 6.4% to £87.5m due to Covid-related cost such as providing PPE for workers, and it also repaid £28.9m in business rates relief.

While Pets at Home is classed as an essential retailer, which meant it was allowed to stay open during lockdown, it had to close its grooming salons for parts of the financial year.

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image captionBarking in the rain: Recent poor weather has seen sales of dog raincoats soar

"Covid-19 has structurally altered the dynamics of the UK pet care market, with changes to the way we work and spend our leisure time removing an historical barrier to pet ownership and strengthening the emotional bond with pets as they play a more significant role in our daily lives," the company said.

Chief executive Peter Pritchard said the rise in pet ownership during the period, as well as changes in the way that people treat their pets, meant there was still scope for growth.

He said that people were now much more interested in what their pets were eating, ensuring the food is "natural", "high in meat" and looking at "whether that meat is organic".

Mr Pritchard also said the company was seeing the "humanisation" of animals, which he described as "all the things that we do to make pets part of our lives".

He said it was now more commonplace for people to buy coats for their dogs so they are not "smelly and wet" when they come into a house, or treating them to a cooling pool when the weather is warm.

The recent wet weather in the UK has spurred demand for waterproofs for dogs "which tend to be the sort of fabric you might wear yourself".

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image captionPet ownership has risen by 8% in the past year, Pets at Home says

Pets at Home said total pre-tax profits, including gains from the sale of part of its business, rose to £116.4m from £85.9m in the previous year.

Overall revenues rose by 7.9% to a record £1.1bn and the retailer announced a a £15.8m bonus for staff.

It now expects underlying pre-tax profit for the current financial year to reach between £120m and £130m.

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