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Hardware claw: Bunnings digs into pet supplies as recession-proof sector booms | Business

The hardware chain that encourages you to make improvements to your home knows there’s something else you are willing to fork out cash for – your pet.

Bunnings has announced an increase in its range of pet supplies to compete with supermarkets and specialty retailers, marking its biggest product expansion in two decades, since offering kitchen fit-outs.

Stores will start stocking pet food from late March for the first time, along with an expanded range of bedding and other pet-centric products.

The managing director of Bunnings, Mike Schneider, said the company saw huge potential in the product range as pets increasingly become part of Australian families.

Researcher IBISWorld said Australia has one of the highest rates of pet ownership in the world and that a process of “ongoing pet humanisation” was driving sales growth for the sector.

“These pets form an integral part of their owners’ lives, and many consider their pets to be family members,” the researcher said.

“As pets become increasingly humanised, households are spending more money on them in the form of premium foods, dietary supplements and vitamins, pet accessories and treats.”

Pet-related goods are seen as recession-proof, given households rarely cut spending on furry friends even during times of financial stress.

Revenue in the pet supplies sector is forecast to increase over the next five years to become a $4.6bn industry. Pet ownership, currently at two-thirds of Australian households, is also forecast to grow.

While tradespeople have been taking their dogs to Bunnings for years, the Wesfarmers-owned chain created a formal policy allowing dogs inside the main store areas in 2015.

But the policy was promptly revised after a five-year-old was bitten by a dog soon after the pet-friendly guidelines were announced.

Dogs are now permitted if they are secured in a vehicle; on a lead and wearing a muzzle; carried; or sitting in a trolley.

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The lead and muzzle requirement has been the source of heated debate in online forums.

The Bunnings expansion means it will compete directly with supermarkets, which are the largest distribution channel for pet food.

It will also pit its product range against discount retailers like Kmart, also owned by Wesfarmers, and large specialty pet stores such as Petbarn and Petstock.

The industry expanded quickly during the pandemic, with one in five families acquiring a new cat or dog, usually to assist with family wellbeing, according to a survey led by La Trobe University researchers.

Dogs are the most popular pet, followed by cats, fish, birds, small mammals, and reptiles, government data shows.