Prepare for fleas outbreak, Pets at Home boss warns

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Families across the country should prepare themselves for a mass outbreak of fleas among their pets, according to the boss of Pets at Home.

Chief executive Peter Pritchard said the recent heatwave, followed by heavy rain and flooding, was the ideal breeding ground for the creatures.

He told PA: “In about three weeks’ time, we will see a mass outbreak of fleas.”

The warning comes as the boss also revealed that sales of cooling products for dogs were off the scale, as owners attempted to keep their pets cool in the record-breaking heat.

Mr Pritchard said: “Last week, we could not sell enough cooling products – cooling mats, cooling bottles, that sort of thing.

“We have to make that decision (to stock lots of cooling products) six months ahead. It’s always a gamble but we always buy heavy on heating and cooling.”

His comments come as the retailer said sales have jumped in the 16 weeks to July 18 by 9.9% to £303.4 million compared with the same period a year ago.

It means Pets at Home has grown sales every quarter for the last 10 quarters.

Mr Pritchard said the focus on services, such as vets, grooming and flea treatments, was particularly positive and drove sales in the retail division.

He added: “When you speak to customers, they just think about shopping being easy, whether they want to shop online or in store or a combination of the two. They want convenience and speed.”

Retail sales were up 8.2% on a like-for-like basis, and Pets’ vet business grew 6.2% like-for-like.

The strong growth comes at a time when much of the high street is struggling, with consumer uncertainty, business rates and high rent to blame.

But Mr Pritchard said he felt the pets business was reasonably secure.

He explained: “People always focus on family, and pets are part of the family. We’re not recession proof, but I think we’re recession friendly.”

On Thursday, Bank of England governor Mark Carney said there is a one-in-three chance of a recession in the UK regardless of the outcome of Brexit.

For Pets at Home, the company said it was well prepared for a potential no-deal Brexit, having practised in the lead-up to the previous Brexit deadline of March 31.

He said: “We’ve done this before – we’re focusing on continuity of supply. We’re conscious we don’t want to run out of stock.”

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