The pet sector in North Wales is now worth more than £70m a year – supporting hundreds of jobs across the region.
The pet market in the UK is one of the largest in Europe, with 47 percent of people claiming to own a pet in their house.
It not just the sheer number of animals that is on the rise but the amount spent on individual pets – with posher food, quality treats and toys and even luxury accommodation.
A recent study found that British dog owners are spending an average of £240 on their animals each month.
This is creating hundreds of roles from workers making dog food to vets, dog walkers and groomers.
A local brand at the forefront of growing the pet sector in North Wales is PetPlace(formerly Farm and Pet Place).
The company employs more than 90 staff at five stores across North Wales and has launched new ventures like a pet cinema and a play park at its revamped Abergele facility.
Managing director Sion Pritchard said: “As the industry continues to grow, we are at the forefront of it in Wales and the North West, introducing innovative ideas while remaining fully focused on the health and nutrition side of the business.
This is a growing market
“Ultimately, as we grow and rebrand our other stores in the region, that will see us make further investment that will, in turn, have a positive impact on the economy.”
Another company creating jobs and driving this growth is Pero Foods, located near Betws y Coed.
The dog and cat food firm now employs 18 workers with ambitious plans to grow the workforce as turnover increases.
Director Jonathan Rees said: “This is a growing market and in the food area people are far more concerned now about what they are feeding their pets.
“They are looking for quality and nutritious meals and it is not about feeding the dogs scraps anymore. This is helping us grow.
“Turnover was up 22% last year and we are 26% up so far this year.
“This would see turnover at around £5m and with all but two staff based locally we like to think we are having a big impact on the local economy.”
Only cloud is Brexit
One target growth area is exports, with around 10% of sales now going abroad – compared to just over 1% a couple of years ago.
Jonathan added: “Things are very good and we are positive about the future.
“The only cloud is Brexit and particularly concern that EU trade deals we currently have with other countries are not currently ready to be replicated when the UK leaves.
“That is the biggest concern at the moment.”
Figures from the Pet Food Manufacturing Association show the annual total UK pet food market had reached a new high of £2.65bn.
This is led by the dog food category (£1.37bn) as the dog population has grown by 400,000 pets to hit a new UK record of 9m dogs.
Overall sales at The Real Petfood Company – which is based at Kinmel Park in Bodelwyddan – have increased by about 100% in the past year.
The firm currently employs 65 people and it is anticipated some 30 more jobs will be created within the next three years after its £14m investment in new production facilities.
Managing director James Lawson said: “With nearly half the UK’s population owning a pet, UK consumers are more conscious than ever of what they are feeding them and the growing trend for natural diets – such as Harringtons – will further boost sales.
£4m a year into economy
“Through wages and payments to local suppliers, I estimate the business already pumps nearly £4m a year into the regional economy and our anticipated strong sales growth should help us significantly increase this amount.”
The changing attitude to our pets saw the creation of The Pet Joint – a cat and small animals hotel in Denbighshire which features under-floor heating, interactive TVs and bespoke sofas.
It has created two jobs at the Cwm y Rhinwedd Farm site in Denbigh with plans for another three more over the next year.
Owner Steve Belgrau said: “We’ve found that our services have been helping to contribute to local tourism within North Wales.
“We received a record number of enquiries last summer regarding people bringing their dogs on holiday with them to Wales and using our day care services for the days they wanted to visit local attractions that weren’t pet friendly.
“As our Cat Hotel and Small Pet Hotel grow we hope to expand further with the amount of suites we have which will allow us to create new roles within our business.
“It’s all very exciting.
“We are also in talks about offering work placements for schools/colleges, and also offering a scheme for people who are out of work and who may be struggling to gain employment who can come to us to gain some hands-on experience and gain a reference to help get back into work.”
The firm is also looking at franchise options to expand its brand to other areas.
But he added: “We are delaying plans for this however, until the questions and uncertainties around Brexit have been answered.
“A worry for us is that leaving the EU may cause financial uncertainty, and that paired with additional costs to enter Europe with the feeling that Britons may not be as welcome as before may lead to less holidays being taken.”
Source: Daily Post