Caged in pet owners stockpile supplies for coronavirus lockdowns

By Tanishaa Nadkar
·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: A couple walk their pet before night-time curfew announced by the government to keep people off the streets, to prevent infections amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Vina del Mar

By Tanishaa Nadkar

(Reuters) - Britain's pet owners have joined others in stockpiling food and medicines for their animals during the coronavirus lockdowns, with Pets At Home reporting a surge in demand on Thursday and a boost to its profits.

Supermarkets in the UK have already seen shoppers pick grocery store shelves clean on fears of shortages of products ranging from disinfectants to rice, putting unprecedented pressure on retailers to restock their stores and ration goods.

Pets At Home Group <PETSP.L> said it saw "exceptional levels of demand", mainly for pet food as well as basic health treatments and expects profit for the year ended March 26 to beat market forecasts.

Pet food sales in the United States saw significant growth in the first week of March, which accelerated through the third week of March, according to Neilsen data.

"Short-term, we expect to see a dip in pet food sales in the weeks ahead. Pet food is a fixed consumption category. As many pet parents have now "stocked-up" the next purchase cycle will likely elongate," Maria Lange, Vice President of Nielsen's pet practice.

Liberum analyst Adam Tomlinson also said the key question was how sustained this uptick in sales would be and how trading patterns would emerge following the initial spike.

It is not just pet food that is seeing increased demand, according to U.S.-based Covetrus Inc <CVET.O>, which has seen a surge in its web-based pharmacy services.

The company said home deliveries of pet medicines and products had surged 45% as more vets shift to using its online tools to prescribe products, including drugs and pet food.

Swiss group Nestle <NESN.S> also reported stockpiling. Its Purina PetCare division's fastest-growing product category is pet food and on Wednesday it snapped up London-based Lily's Kitchen.

With many people stranded at home, pet adoption has also surged as people try to cope with isolation.

London's Battersea Dogs and Cats home revealed a big increase in the numbers looking for pets in the run-up to the UK's lockdown measures.

Australia has also reported a big surge in adoptions as people look for companionship during social distancing restrictions.

(Reporting by Tanishaa Nadkar and Ankur Banerjee in Bengaluru, additional reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal; editing by Patrick Graham, Bernard Orr and Elaine Hardcastle)