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Rising Cost of Living Failing to Dent Demand for Pets

A dog is a man’s best friend, as they say, so it’s no wonder that many of us are turning to four-legged friends for comfort in these tough times.

Rising food and energy costs are forcing many families across the UK to tighten their belts, and with a planned National Insurance hike just around the corner, countless people are genuinely worried about how to make ends meet. That means many of us are being forced to make some really difficult financial decisions.

Nevertheless, it seems that pets are the one. One area where we’re not willing to make any spending compromises.

According to retailer Pets at Home, the surge in pet buying that was seen during lockdown is showing no signs of abating and there are now more pet owners in the UK than ever before.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today program, Chief Executive Peter Pritchard said he expects this trend to continue over the coming months, despite the rise in the cost of living.

“I think history actually tells us one of the very last things customers do is cut back on their pets,” he commented.

“They are much more likely to cut back on a holiday or a big discretionary purchase. Pets are very much part of the family.”

As a result, Mr Pritchard believes Pet at Home revenues will be very strong this year. In fact, the company recently enjoyed a record Christmas and is currently attracting 25,000 new customers a week. Similarly, it has seen strong growth in sales at its 300 vet and grooming outlets in the last few months.

“In the month of December alone, we actually groomed 90,000 dogs, 5,500 dogs on Christmas Eve alone, so it was a very busy Christmas for us,” said Mr Pritchard.

He went on to acknowledge that the cost of living crisis means many people are “under pressure”, but stressed that he wants to keep pet ownership “really affordable for our customers”.

This trend is a fascinating legacy of the pandemic and one that’s having a profound impact on how people choose to spend their money.

As much as people value going on foreign holidays, buying a new car, making home improvements and buying luxury purchases, the emotional bond between a pet owner and their animal can override all these.

Add to that the fact that many of us are continuing to work from home for at least several days a week, which means it’s now more convenient than ever for animal lovers to look after and tend to a pet.

As Mr Pritchard of Pets at Home noted in late 2020, more people have considered having a pet “because their lives have changed and they are at home more often”.

It should be very interesting to see whether this strength in demand holds up over the next few months as the pressures on people’s finances become more and more intense.

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