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United Kingdom - "We have very clear operating principles"

Pets at home, the UK's leading specialised pet trading chain, intends to double its current 8 per cent share of the pet products market over the next five years. Between five and ten new stores are to be opened each year. PET in Europe talked to Anthony Preston, managing director of Pets at home

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Anthony Preston: "Our aim is to double our market share in the next five years."
PET in Europe: Pets at home is the UK's No. 1 in the pet trade. How have you succeeded in steadily increasing your market share over recent years?
Anthony Preston: Pets at home started in 1991 with the opening of my first retail park store in Chester. By 1999 Pets at home had 60 UK stores and a turnover of £ 50 million. At the end of 1999 Pets at home bought out its main competitor, the US chain Pets Mart, formerly Pet City. This increased our retail stores to 143 and turnover to March 2001 reached £180 million.
 
Pets at home is Great Britain's No. 1 in the pet trade.
PET in Europe: Pets Mart, the US leader in the pet trade, has given up its involvement in Britain after making big losses. What strategic mistakes did Pets Mart make in the United Kingdom?
Anthony Preston: Pets Mart's main area of weakness was due to the fact that they continued to operate in larger stores (mainly over 1 000 m²), without considering the financial implications of such large stores i.e. built for growth, not profit. Their stores were too big for the UK market; and they were hooked on advertising, which proved to be costly.
PET in Europe: What are the primary qualifications for a successful retail company in the pet sector?
Anthony Preston: Pets at home's growth and success have been built on a formula of listening to our customers and having an efficient infrastructure which enables us to deliver what they are asking for, at a price they are happy to pay. On to that basic philosophy we have grafted a desire to recruit and train staff who genuinely care about pets and their owners.
The reason Pets at home have been successful where others have failed is that we have very clear operating principles and very short lines of command.
PET in Europe: What are the long-term objectives of your company?
Anthony Preston: Pets at home's aim is to double its market share in the next five years through high street stores, franchising and Internet and Home Shopping.
PET in Europe: Pet business is getting more and more international. Do you have plans to expand into continental Europe at some stage, perhaps in cooperation with another trading group?
Anthony Preston: There are no plans at present to expand into Europe.
New stores will continue to be added at the rate of five to ten per annum as the sites arise.
PET in Europe: Competition between specialist pet stores and big grocery chains like Sainsbury's is hotting up in…
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