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The future of pet retailing

Following a survey of our members, we have a clear picture of the impact of Covid-19 on the pet food industry to this point.

Initially, sales in pet food peaked. People were stockpiling other essential items, and this was extended to pet food. This was followed by a small trough as people only needed a certain amount of food. Going forward, owners are likely to want to keep a small surplus supply in the cupboards in preparation for any similar situation.

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Currently the world is recalibrating, and it is too early to say what longer term impact the pandemic will have. We know that certain trends such as digital transformation, increased online shopping are likely to have been accelerated.

In times of relative scarcity, especially when thinking about household budgets, shoppers will spend time searching for what they want to buy at an acceptable price.

Clues from the past for the future?

Analysts have looked to the recession of 2008-2009 for clues but the situation is fundamentally different, during the financial crash we didn’t have the health crisis, total population lockdowns and shut down of business.

A boom in new pet parents?

An unexpected consequence of Covid-19 has been a boom in new pet owners. This can only be a positive for the pet care sector.

From talking to our contacts, we understand that this has had an impact across the range of pets. Whilst I have personally seen many new puppies in my local community, for those who have been unable to commit to dog ownership, we hear there has been an increase in small mammals and fish too.

To try and get a clearer picture of impact, PFMA has commissioned some additional research to get data on whether new pets have been acquired during the pandemic; this, combined with our annual survey results in March 2021 will give us a good view of impact.  Our interim market report will be published at the end of the summer.

What does the future of pet retailing look like?

Analysts, Nielsen, have done some modelling to look at potential scenarios post-Covid for global business regeneration. They have come up with three potential scenarios: rebound, reboot and reinvent.

The findings led to three horizons being established that reveal significant new and adjusted consumer behaviours that will lead to different types of demand in terms of what, where and how consumers make purchases.

They also point to a series of common characteristics likely to be exhibited by consumers over time. These outcomes included characteristics such as local reliance, reliant on essentials, social solidarity.

These characteristics benefit pet retailing and shops on the high street. In PwC’s May consumer sentiment tracker, nearly a quarter of UK shoppers said they are buying more from small shops and independent retailers and 15% are buying more food from local suppliers.

How to keep up with the fast-changing world?

Whilst the challenges are plenty, there are opportunities too. It is an opportunity to look at your business model, consider how you expect customers to behave going forward – what will and won’t matter to them. Can you digitize any of your products or services, and start offering them online? Can you implement technology to balance any loss of earnings by offering new ways to connect with your customers?

Upskill your staff

When everything else seems out of our control, learning new skills can be incredibly positive. It is also essential for a competitive edge. Training and education offerings throughout the pandemic have developed quickly to run online. This has some real benefits, it is invariably cheaper, means less time away from work and is often more flexible fitting around working hours.

Whether it is learning new digital skills to keep pace with the increasingly digital world or improving pet food nutrition knowledge to offer an enhanced service to customers. Many organisations such as PFMA are offering training.

PFMA ran its first Pet Food and Nutrition course over the summer, covering areas such as labelling, manufacture, nutrition for all pets. This course is great for all pet care professionals connected with pet food and will run again in the autumn, watch this space: https://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-food-and-nutrition-course.

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