Retailer Pets At Home expects lift from Christmas gifts for furry friends

FILE PHOTO: Christmas toys for pets on display at a Pets at Home store in Weymouth, Britain

By Eva Mathews

(Reuters) -Britons looking to pamper their pets with Christmas toys, winter coats, treats and Valentine's day goodies are setting up British retailer Pets At Home for a jolly festive season, Chief Executive Lyssa McGowan said on Tuesday.

Coming off a strong Halloween period, when pet owners snapped up costumes for their cats and dogs, McGowan said the company has already sold over half a million Christmas dog toys, with its 30 pound ($38) treat-filled advent calendar selling out online in less than three days.

"Halloween was up 18% year-on-year and we're looking forward to Valentine's Day next year which is the ultimate time to show your pet just how much you love them," McGowan told Reuters.

The upbeat holiday outlook from British retailers including Pets At Home comes despite a year of unrelenting economic gloom and persistently high inflation.

About 53% of adults in the UK own a pet, according to vet charity PDSA. Of this, 36% acquired their pets in the last three years, according to its latest survey, and Pets At Home has continued to benefit from the work-from-home trend which has spurred demand for pets.

The company has been investing in its digital offerings and has increased vet capacity to sustain growth.

Total group revenue grew 6.5% to 774.2 million pounds ($976.96 million) for the 28-week period ended Oct. 12, as customers snapped up the retailer's Barbie and Disney ranges for pets and thousands signed up for its vet services.

Demand has also been strong for its own brands, McGowan said, as these offer consumers 15-20% savings.

The group's underlying profit before tax, however, was down 19.3% at 47.8 million pounds for the half-year, mainly due to the increase in its digital investments.

In the early weeks of the third quarter, like-for-like retail growth was about 4%, the company said.

($1 = 0.7925 pounds)

($1 = 0.7921 pounds)

(Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Sherry Jacob-Phillips and Miral Fahmy)