The UK Pet Industry
An estimated 11 million UK households have pets – that’s 40% of the British population. In spite of economic fluctuations over the past decade, spending on pets and pet-related products is growing and this upward trend shows no signs of slowing down.
“The pet industry seems to defy all the odds during recessions and has been very little affected by economic crisis so far. What makes the pet industry so immune to uncertainty and insecurity? I guess one answer is: do we really have the heart to cut back on the well-being of our beloved pets? Probably not.” Costas Constantinou, franchise manager of Husse
In 2014, expenditure on pet care rose to approximately £6.1 billion, an increase of £1.2 billion since 2008. These figures don’t just represent the basic expenses incurred by owning pets – they show that our furry friends are taking prime position in the UK household and being thoroughly pampered! Brits are now spending a whopping £1 billion per year on ‘treats’ for their pets alone.
“A pet industry franchise gives you the opportunity to gain skilled training and immediately become recognised as a trusted, professional organisation. An estimated 46 percent of the population own a pet, so the potential for growth in the industry is phenomenal.” Sandra Lawton, founder of AA Dog Training
The humanisation of pets: Pet owners increasingly identify their pets as members of the family, and are prepared to spend along those lines. The demographic shifts contributing to this trend vary, with some of the factors including the rise in single-occupancy households, ‘Double Income No Kids’ couples, widowed seniors and high divorce rates. In many cases, the pet becomes the focus of the household and is a crucial source of company and affection. With pets providing such joy to so many, it’s no wonder that we’re prepared to make a fuss of them – with all the welfare costs and accessories to match.
Premium products: The health and longevity of our beloved pets is paramount. More and more, consumers are focusing on the diets of their pets and the ingredients found in pet food. Human grade meat, and all-natural or organic ingredients are in demand, which has led to an opening for niche, high-quality products at reasonable prices.
Pet care: Busy, working pet owners often require care options for their pets. The need for boarding kennels, animal minders and walkers has created a growth industry based around pets’ wellbeing and safety. Pet day care or ‘crèche’ is becoming common, with the promise of company, exercise and activities for pets who would otherwise be alone all day.
Pet pampering: Pet grooming businesses, in particular dog grooming, are growing in popularity. Not only do busy pet owners want their pets to look well, a trained groomer can save them a lot of time and effort – particularly if, as often happens, their pet is not a fan of being groomed!
“Something else that gives the pet industry that extra strength is predictability. The industry maintains a steady healthy level of demand throughout the year, peaking slightly in December. Predictability allows stock levels to be managed more easily. During the last decade, humans have become a lot more health conscious, and that trend has now transferred over to their pets – causing a rapid rise in the sale of healthy natural premium pet food!” Costas Constantinou, franchise manager of Husse
Factors to consider when starting a pet business
Passion: While opportunities within the pet industry are diverse, and some may not involve much direct contact with animals, it’s still essential to like animals. As we’ve already established, owners take their pets extremely seriously and you’ll need to be able to impart a similar enthusiasm to clients.
Facilities: It’s important to consider the type of business you wish to run and the facilities needed to run it. Day care facilities or boarding kennels may require substantial premises, while a grooming parlour would involve a lot of kit. Ensure you have a realistic overview of all the potential expenses necessary beyond the franchise fee. Assess your own financial situation and check out the financing options available (for example: does the franchisor assist with premises and financing?) to make sure you won’t end up unexpectedly out of pocket.
Your territory: The franchise may grant you an exclusive territory with which to operate under their brand, but you still need to consider your location and investigate other local pet businesses. It doesn’t make sense to open a boarding kennels in an area which is already well covered by others, for example. Do your research, estimate the local pet population, and try to tap into a needed service.
The brand: How established is the franchise you wish to join? Does it have a good reputation? If it’s a lesser-known brand, it should at least have a range of franchise benefits and training to make investment worth your while. It’s also a good idea to research the brand’s marketing plan and materials, as substandard marketing will prove detrimental to your business.
Research, research, research: Speak to current franchisees of the brand and hear about their experiences. Attend a discovery day, if possible. Visit the franchise’s head office and read the franchise agreement thoroughly. In other words, don’t get swept away or invest before gaining a comprehensive knowledge of the brand, particularly in terms of its contributions and expectations.
“The pet sector has grown over the years, with dog ownership being now at a high level of 8.5 million dogs in the UK. Increasingly, discerning owners are wanting only the very best care for their dogs whilst they go on holiday. Home dog boarding is matching their desire to have their beloved pooch looked after in a home environment with one-to-one care, replicating what they are used to receiving at home. Everyone loves a holiday, but they want to know their dogs are having a jolly good time as well." Carole Davy, managing director of PetStay
Wherever it applies, it’s important to ensure a brand legitimately complies with all necessary animal welfare and manufacturing legislation before signing up. Any dealings with animals should comply with the 2006 Animal Welfare Act – details of which can be found at the RSPCA website.
Residential: Animal boarding businesses are subject to the 1963 Animal Boarding Establishments Act, which requires such establishments be licensed by the local council.
The licence is granted at the discretion of the local council and will consider the suitability of the accommodation and whether the animals are adequately cared for and protected.
Planning issues should also be considered if your business requires making adjustments to your home. Any structural changes will mean contacting your local authority for permission.
A 2014 amendment to the Dangerous Dogs Act states that individuals in charge of a dog may be liable if the dog becomes ‘dangerously out of control’. It is worth considering the animals you take on, and rejecting those that may have a tendency towards aggression or bad behaviour.
Pet Food: According to the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association, the manufacture of pet food is subject to more than 50 pieces of legislation. All foods for animals are governed by the same legislation and the laws are stringent. Additionally, as pet food is manufactured and distributed in the same way as human food, some legislation governing human food is equally applicable to pet food.
Insurance: Your business will need to be adequately covered from the very beginning. Cover will depend on whether you run the business from home or commercially, and the type of service you are offering. Pet business insurance should cover public liability and liability for the pets you are caring for, along with property damage. Some house insurance policies may also cover home-based businesses. Gov.uk is an excellent resource for discovering the necessary requirements and insurance in running a business, whether from home or an external premises. Insurance companies such as Petplan will cover all eventualities and provide individually tailored plans.
Trust: If you are working directly with their animals, you need to ensure that you can build a trusting relationship with clients. The clients need to know that you are capable of caring for their beloved pet, so investing in a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check can make them feel more comfortable. First aid training and animal behaviour courses will also make your client feel at ease, and help you in caring for pets to the best of your ability.
Vehicles: If your role includes the transportation of animals, you will need adequate harnesses and cages, along with insurance which covers special usage.
Pet franchising offers a diverse range of business models for a rewarding and recession-proof career. Is pet franchising the ideal route into business for you? Get started by browsing our pet franchise opportunities today.