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It is estimated that more than 3 million pets found themselves new homes in animal-loving UK households during lockdown. Such has been the surge in pandemic puppy pals, in particular, that the Office for National Statistics now includes dog treats in its inflation basket of goods.

But we’re not alone in the UK. According to the American Pet Products Association, US households spent $104 billion on pet products over the course of 2020 and it predicts the market will grow to almost $110 billion this year.

So the pandemic has clearly been a good time to run a pet shop or other pet-related businesses. Pets at Home Group (PETS), the pet store chain should be well-placed to reap the rewards of this boost in pandemic pet ownership. It offers a wide array of food and toys and other pet essentials alongside veterinary services and even canine facials and blow-dries.

To cap it all, as an essential retailer it was allowed to carry on trading and, as a result, has seen its sales - and its share price - rise. Same-store sales rose 18% in the three months to December and that was despite a 7% fall in the number of customer transactions, indicating that households have been splashing out more than usual on treats and essentials - and possibly pampering - for their pets.

A dog is for life, not just for lockdown

Pet owners are clearly prepared to throw money at animal ownership. According to the Dogs Trust prices for pets have soared. At £1,838 the average price of a pedigree dachshund in June was double the £973 asking price last March.

If you can afford it, the appeal of a lockdown puppy is easy to see. The question though is whether our new four-legged friends are going to lose some of their appeal when the world re-opens and people head back out to work? And that will be especially interesting to see, as more than half of the UK’s new pet owners are below the age of 34, according to the survey of 5,093 pet owners carried out by Kantar and Soular Consulting for the Pet Food Manufacturers Association.

Analysts reckon though that the shift in working patterns and a move towards home-working in particular could, in part, be driven by pet ownership. They even go so far as to say the nation’s new pet-owners may ease up spending on other leisure activities to pamper their pets instead. All of which would, of course, be very good news for Pets at Home.

Not content to rest on its, no doubt, fur-lined laurels though, Pets at Home has been levelling-up throughout the pandemic. It has cleverly made itself a one-stop shop for pet owners’ needs, adding ease and convenience to its offering. Back in November, it bought veterinary telemedicine company 'The Vet Connection' for £15 million, bolstering its health services with round-the-clock veterinary telehealth advice, triage and ancillary services.

It will be interesting to hear whether it has any more new tricks up its sleeve when it releases its results on Thursday.

More on Pets at Home Group

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