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How Pets at Home prioritised omnichannel investment during and after lockdown – while first-quarter omnichannel sales grew by 71%

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Pets at Home showed how it invested in omnichannel services during the Covid-19 lockdown and now plans to continue to do so amid signs that demand is growing both for pets and for digital ways of buying. It was able to remain open during the lockdown as an essential retailer, and first quarter omnichannel sales grew by a record 71% but in-store and vet revenues both fell, taking the business to an overall 1% drop in revenues.

During the lockdown period Pets at Home introduced services including a ‘call and deliver to car’ service and contactless click-and-collect, supported by dedicated parking bays and QR code notifications. 

It now plans to continue that investment with an upgraded click and collect service, built on a new order management system that will provide real-time intelligence to help manage orders and routing between stores. This, it says, will improve both the customer experience and fulfilment capacity while also saving money compared to its existing model. 

Further investment plans include building a new single site storage and distribution facility in Stafford on a 20-year lease. Both stores and online will be served from the site, supported by a single technology platform that will replace legacy infrastructure. 

The update came as Pets at Home said group revenue fell by 1% and like-for-like revenue by 0.7% in the 16 weeks from March 27 to July 16. The retailer and vet group, whose multichannel retail business is ranked Top50 in RXUK Top500 research, said turnover fell fastest (-13.5%) in the first eight weeks of the period – when lockdown was fully in force – before recovering with 12% growth over the subsequent eight weeks. 

Sales from omnichannel grew by 71% over the quarter, while in-store sales fell by 7.3% at the same time. The retailer said digital orders were at record volumes during the period, peaking in the four weeks from April 24 when they grew by 74.2% and store sales fell by 11.8%, but remaining high even once store sales returned to positive territory from late June. Retail sales grew by 0.4% over the first quarter, but income from vet services fell by 8.4%. 

 Its VIP loyalty club grew its active members to 5.7m in the quarter, up by 20.3% compared to the same time last year. The number of members who bought both products and a service grew by 8.5%, while the number of Puppy and Kitten Club members grew by 12%. Subscription customers grew by 18.1% to more than 906,000. 

Pets at Home group chief executive Peter Pritchard said: “In spite of the rapid, wide ranging and devastating effects of the pandemic, we have remained open for our customers throughout the period and we are emerging as a stronger business. The inherent resilience in our pet care model and the underlying pet care market, as well as encouraging signs of increased pet ownership, all underpin our confidence in seizing the future and progressing specific, strategic priorities. The significant investment in our omni-channel business is a good example of this, representing an important milestone, not just for our business and customers, but also as part of our commitment to longer term regional job creation and retention.”

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