Retailers can capitalise on the lockdown-boom of pet ownership, says Bob Martin

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Over half of the UK population owns a pet, and according to Kennel Club figures, pet registrations have soared by a quarter over lockdown. With companion animal ownership booming in recent months, retailers have a prime opportunity to showcase pet care products as an increasingly lucrative and growing category. 

One in two households home to a pet

More than 20 million domestic cats and dogs now live in the UK, with one in two households home to a furry, feathered, slimy or scaly friend.  

Pets are of course part of the family and the UK petcare sector is expected to expand to more than £7bn by next year, with dog food alone worth more than £1bn.

Data by leading petcare brand Bob Martin has identified a tenfold increase in demand for people looking to purchase a companion animal whilst in lockdown, with online search volumes for cat and dog purchases and adoptions at all-time highs.

As well as stocking the usual pet food and healthcare ranges, retailers equipped with the right knowledge and enthusiasm to give customers advice on looking after their pets, can capitalise on increased sales by meeting this growing and increasingly loyal consumer demand. 

For Aurelie Gayraud, senior brand manager at Bob Martin, this rapidly growing market of pet owners could prove fruitful for the retail sector in the UK.

She comments: “Retailers that adapt to this petcare category trend and those who ensure the growing consumer demand is met, will be presented with an excellent opportunity to drive sales by catering to the UK’s growing population of feline and canine loving customers in particular.”

Gayraud shares her top tips on how retailers can maximise customer loyalty and meet the rising demand.

Merchandise correctly

“Some of the largest retailers we work with merchandise by focusing their efforts on arranging by pet types, health solutions and seasonality. Smaller retailers can learn from these operators by looking at their own sales and EPOS data (if they have it), to analyse best-selling products and updating their shelves based on this insight. The best selling products should be prioritised by ensuring they’re readily available for consumers at eye-level on the shelves.”

Education, education, education – understand pet owners’ needs and that of their pets

“Especially as face coverings are now compulsory in shops, customers will likely be in an even greater rush to run in and run out for an item. However, pet owners will often be more conscientious, loyal and engaged shoppers, and will likely have more dwell-time than your typical grocery shopper. 

“The emotional bond, care and attention owners have with their pets is often reflected in their shopping habits too. Retailers should be providing useful insight for these customers, imparting knowledge across a range of pet solutions, such as which foods are best for which breeds, or how and when to treat and prevent fleas, ticks and worms.

“Even though dwell times will be higher, there will only be a few seconds to portray this enthusiasm and expertise, to potentially upsell other products through an impulse buy. Teach them a fact or two, such as, ‘did you know, only 5% of fleas are on your pet, the remaining 95% are in the home’, and, ‘a female flea can lay up to 50 eggs a day!’

“Giving customers a quick fact could inspire a purchase, but regardless, they’ll still leave the shop with a soundbite which they could pass on to other pet owners. The information pages on the RSPCA, Dogs Trust or Cats Protection websites would be a great place to start when swotting up on pet subjects!”

Feline hungry

“Pets are a central part of our families. And, as humans adhere to healthy eating or premium trends in food, such as supplements, gluten free or vegan options, we’re also reflecting these choices onto our pets. Retailers should consider stocking new and exciting products to cater to this, for example, exploring vitamin supplements for pets, vegetarian options for dogs or natural treats.”

Show them you care

“Retailers should emphasise the importance of responsible pet ownership and recommend a range of essential healthcare products to customers. Items such as the Bob Martin Clear Plus flea and tick spot-on, don’t only eradicate fleas, but also kill their eggs and prevent further infestation for both the pet and immediate surroundings. These products can be regular purchases and drive repeat custom, as they prevent parasite issues. Flea infestations and tick bites can be a pain at best, or can result in extremely dangerous health concerns at worst.”