Veterinary firm Vets4Pets is set for growth after Retail Week revealed yesterday it had been bought by specialist retailer Pets At Home.

Guernsey-based Vets4Pets has 93 practices across the UK. Although it may not be a well-known firm among those without a furry friend this is set to change as Pets at Home aims to grow its veterinary arm to more than 500 practices. The retailer currently has 116 practices through Companion Care.  

It is the retailer’s second acquisition in five months after it bought online equestrian retailer Ride-Away in December.

Vets4Pets last year hit the £50m turnover barrier, while Companion Care recorded sales of £57m in the same period.

While Vets4Pets is a service offering, its founder and chief executive Peter Watson has extensive retail experience. He is a former managing director of optical retailer Vision Express from 1995 to 2001. Prior to this he was the business development director at Specsavers.

Watson said the firm along with Companion Care are market leaders in the veterinary sector, growing rapidly since he founded Vets4Pets in 2001.

“Other practices have grown by acquisitions but we’ve done it by launching new practices and then being able to define the brand,” he adds.

Vets4Pets operates from purpose-built surgeries, which is quite unique for a veterinary practice which are usually opened in older buildings. Watson says the surgeries are approachable and have a less clinical feel due to their more retail focused offering, which means they also have a big focus on customer service.

Watson decided to set up his own business after he felt he could transfer the franchise type jont-venture business model he had put in place at Vision Express to another business.

The joint venture model used in Vets4Pets enables vets, particularly younger vets, who may not have the capital to open their own surgeries. The vet puts £30,000 on the table while Vets4Pets puts forward the rest of the money to open the surgery. Vets4Pets then takes charge of the accounts, audits the business, offers KPIs, gives them operational support and marketing support.

Watson explains that vets usually have limited experience in how to run a business so the partnership can be beneficial for them.

Each practice is owned by a local vet or nurse and they are open six days a week with an out of hours veterinary service.

Watson will now work with Companion Care managing director Jane Balmain as the business integrates into Pets At Home. It is a reunion for the pair who worked together at Vision Express.

Watson is confident the move to Pets At Home is the right one, which has been helped by their shared retail knowledge and culture.

He says: “What made it so easy to sell to Pets At Home was that we had a common model and culture is very similar, so putting the two businesses together means they have got the very best chance of working.”

It seems Vets4Pets will be a right fit for Pets At Home.