We travelled to Swindon for a two day shoot on behalf of Companion Care Vets, the vetinary service allied to the Pets at Home store chain.
You can see the video we made here
It’s an amazing story. Pets at Home founder, Stockport-based Anthony Preston started the chain from a single superstore in Chester in 1991. Now it's worth £1 billion.
While working in the family cash and carry business he noted a change in the buying habits of the nation’s pet owners. Animal lovers were not visiting traditional pet shops so frequently and supermarkets were not offering much of a range of pet products. He also observed the rise of the supersheds and a trend for out-of-town retail parks across the UK.
By 1995, the company had 25 stores and attracted private equity investment from 3i, which supported its acquisition of Petsmart UK so Pets at Home could become a market leader. Sales continued to grow and the business rocketed in value from £20m in 1997 to upwards of £200m seven years later.
After attracting bids from 14 private equity houses, Pets at Home was sold to Bridgepoint in 2004 in a deal worth £230m. On 27 January 2010 Britain's largest pet shop chain was sold by Bridgepoint to US investment firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) for £955milion.
KKR has investments in Boots and Toys "R" Us. The business now has 250 stores with sales of more than £400m in 2009. In around a third of the stores is a fully qualified vet working from a state of the art surgery. The vets are part of Companion Care Vets, a subsidiary of Pets at Home.
But essentially each surgery is a privately-owned business which the incumbent vet can sell at a later stage. The benefits are a regular footfall of potential customers coming to the store and superb support services and advice on things like marketing, PR, accountancy and legal issues from the Companion Care Vets central office. There are also plans to establish “stand alone” surgeries in the future.
Avante shot footage to be used at the Companion Care Vets annual conference, including interviews with suppliers and also filmed vets and vet-nurses talking about their positive experiences of running their own business from a giant pet store.