Vet market builds on consumer trust

Overwhelming spending options have lead consumers to rely on veterinarians advice and vets are taking notice.

Regular vet visits

Pet owners are visiting vets more routinely than ever before. The increased demand has seen a significant transformation in the format of vet practices, with around 40% of UK vet practices owned by corporates by the end of 2018. This combination has opened up opportunities for retail sales on a much larger scale. Alongside the demand for vet services, the rapid pace of expansion within pet retail has included larger retailers adding veterinary services to their portfolio. 

Industry giant ‘Pets at Home’ has added veterinary clinics in-store for some years now. However, there has been trouble in paradise, and ‘Pets at Home’ (having opened 250 vet practices in the last 5 years) is now looking to close some practices, mainly due to the shortage of vets available.

Nevertheless, as expected, this marriage of the two industries brings benefits: economies of scale, efficient protocols and, of course, recognisable branding aimed to build consumer trust. 

Owners are now encouraged to not only come for routine anti-parasite treatments, vaccinations and boosters, but also for weight checks, puppy and kitten ‘parties’, education on disease, insurance, and also shopping.

Medical authority wins

Vets have the advantage of medical authority, so products aligned with their advice take on more prominence, a rare situation all suppliers should take advantage of – by offering everything from the more-expected range of recommended foods, grooming supplies, dental care and supplements to now leashes, accessories and toys that educate and are welfare-friendly. In addition, vet retailers can add grooming services, DIY bathing facilities, even daycare, pet boarding and training services to their portfolio. This also allows vets to optimise the existing facilities throughout the day.

Innovative vets have even begun offering socialisation groups for first-time clients bringing their young pups and kittens for check-ups. Recognised as important, especially for young dogs, a well run puppy ‘playgroup’ builds a strong client community and creates the perfect environment for consumers to get everything they need for the ultimate pet home.

E-commerce is still a threat

As with all physical retail stores, the potential threat of losing customers to online purchase is still clear. Nearly 70% of brick-and-mortar pet retailers (Pet Business survey 2018) stated that internet outlets represent their most significant competition. Vet retail can bypass this threat in many aspects – providing exclusive pet foods that maintain special diets, and favouring vendors and brands that do not sell via larger online retailers such as Amazon, which means margins would not have to be cut to compete.

As all retailers would state, the key to attracting and retaining sales is by providing the highest level of customer service. This has never been more apparent than in a veterinary setting, where the welfare of the animals in their care is paramount, with highly qualified staff that are dedicated to their profession. Such a powerful approach should not be minimised by simply placing a few toy stands in the reception area. 

The opportunity is clear, an ethical means of providing pets with the care and supplies they most need, in a health-based setting.


Karen Wild

Dog trainer and pet behaviourist
Year of the salmon, special Southern Europe, Zoomark