Pets at Home has acquired veterinary business Vets4Pets as it aims to extend its veterinary arm to more than 500 in-store and standalone practices.
Pets at Home chief executive Nick Wood said there was “a lot of growth potential” in the small animal veterinary market, which comprises 2,500 practices across the UK.
The acquisition comes on the back of its purchase of equestrian multichannel business Ride-Away in December.
Vets4Pets operates 93 standalone practices and Pets at Home, which acquired the business for between £30m to £50m, plans to expand that number. Pets at Home already operates 116-strong veterinary practice chain Companion Care, the vast majority of which are in store, and Wood said the retailer will work to integrate the two to create a strong player in the market.
For the year to March 31, 2013, the businesses had combined sales of £100m, of which Companion Care accounted for about 56%.
Wood said: “We think we can grow to over 500 Pets at Home stores and that there will be more vets than stores.
“Vets4Pets is highly complementary to Companion Care and is an excellent strategic fit for Pets at Home.”
Wood added that the two chains share the same business model; both operate each of their practices on a joint-venture basis with individual vets.
Vets4Pets’ UK operational centre will remain in the East Midlands, while its support functions will be split between its Guernsey office and Companion Care’s operation in Oxfordshire.
Vets4Pets founder and chief executive Peter Watson will remain with the business and will work with Jane Balmain, the managing director of Companion Care, on the integration.
Watson said: “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.”
No decision has yet been taken on how the two brands will be used going forward but it is expected that new surgeries will adopt Vets4Pets branding. Wood added that there would be no Pets At Home co-branding as “it wouldn’t add anything to the vets, which is about the quality of the joint venture partners”.’
Wood said he would “never say no to acquisitions” for further expanding its service offer but said Pets at Home is focused on creating strong organic growth. As part of that, it is also trialling a combined The Groom Room - its in-store pet grooming service - and Companion Care proposition. The first one opened three weeks ago in Leighton Buzzard.