• Pets at Home will not open dedicated cat stores, despite piloting specialist dog store Barkers
  • But boss Nick Wood says retailer will “continue to innovate” within its store portfolio
  • Pet specialist hails omnichannel strategy but will not take part in Black Friday this year

Pets at Home boss Nick Wood has ruled out opening dedicated cat stores, but vowed the retailer will “continue to innovate”.

The pet specialist is piloting Barkers luxury dog stores in Marlow, Ilkley and Wilmslow. Wood is targeting a store in London during “the next few months” as he homes in on his goal of opening five by the year end.

But Wood said Pets at Home would not be pursuing a similar strategy when it comes to specialist cat stores.

He told Retail Week: “We continue to roll out Barkers in terms of the trial – we’ve opened two stores so far this year and we have targeted five by the year end. There are none in London yet, but hopefully we’ll have a London store over the course of the next few months.

“We continue to innovate and look at space opportunities for our customers. We are a firm believer that the pet owner likes the physical interaction, knowledge and advice from our colleagues.

“There are no plans for cat stores, but we continue to innovate.”

Omnichannel strategy

Pets at Home, which today unveiled an 11.8% jump in pre-tax profit to £45.2m during its first half, has 405 stores, plus 353 veterinary practices and 190 grooming salons in addition to its Barkers stores.

The retailer hailed “strong performance” in its omnichannel strategy during the 28 weeks to October 8 and said click-and-collect orders now accounted for 45% of its total web sales.

Wood hailed the “halo” effect click-and-collect and its VIP Club had on store sales.

“Whenever a customer comes in to use click-and-collect or deliver to store, we get a halo effect from that,” he said.

“It’s similar to our VIP Club, if one of our customers uses a vet or a groomer, then store sales are increased as well because you are driving frequency of visit.

“Ultimately we want every store to have a vet, every store to have a groomer and to become the local pet centre in your community.”

Wood added Pets at Home was “learning a lot” from kiosks that are being trialled in six stores, allowing customers to shop the wider online range from stores, but said there were no plans to roll the initiative out to more locations.

Black Friday

Despite its omnichannel strategy, Pets at Home has again opted against taking part in Black Friday this year, but will instead host ‘Do Good Friday’.

The event will give VIP Club members offers on a selection of products, but will focus its efforts on a series of charitable initiatives to raise funds for pets at rescue centres across the UK.

Wood said: “What we really want to try and do is turn Black Friday into something where people start doing some good, rather than some of the excesses we saw last year.”