Home for your Pet

Pandemic pet boom: The UK companies turning a passion for animals into serious business

The UK’s pet sector has exploded since the start of the pandemic, with soaring sales of toys, food, fashion accessories – and even tech for animals – fuelling an already thriving market.

With growing numbers of people working from home, many decided it would be an ideal time to add to the family.

Some 3.2 million UK homes acquired a pet over lockdown, according to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, with Britain’s pet parents now ploughing billions of pounds into the industry each year.

Dogs are still the most popular pet, with some 33% of UK households owning a pooch in 2020-2021, compared to 27% who owned cats, and 2% who owned rabbits, data from Statista shows.

So it should come as no surprise there is a growing market to cater for our furry family members. At BusinessLive we have taken a look at 12 pawsome pet businesses that started as a passion – and turned into a serious business. In no particular order…

TrustedHousesitters, Brighton

TrustedHousesitters’ CEO Matthew Prior

The pet-sitting platform connects owners with people who are able to look after their animals. The business, which was founded in 2010 by Andy Peck and Rachel Martin, now employs 50 people and operates in a whopping 130 countries worldwide.

According to the company, the demand for pets during lockdown led to the “rapid growth” of the business, which experienced a doubling of revenue over the pandemic.

It saw more than 30,000 new owner and sitter members between the start of 2021 and 2022, and last October secured $10m in Series A funding to continue expanding into the US market. The firm is now aiming to double its revenue in 2022, it said.

Perfect Presints, Newcastle

Perfect Presints is a brand that creates resin handcrafted identity tags
Perfect Presints is a brand that creates resin handcrafted identity tags

Perfect Presints was founded by Danielle Jones in 2020 and makes custom-designed handcrafted identity tags for pets. It also sells necklaces so owners can match their pooch.

Ms Jones set up the business as a side hustle in the UK’s second lockdown. Since then, she has made more than 2,000 tags in her home studio and grown her business on Instagram. Perfect Presints has 14 four-legged brand reps with Instagram accounts run by their owners, which promote the business, according to Ms Jones.

The business has released dog tags inspired by different charities, donating all proceedings to charity. Most recently, it raised £300 for the British Red Cross Ukraine Appeal with a blue and yellow dog tag.

Pet Necessities, Gloucestershire

Alex Hope and her partner Dan bought Pet Necessities in 2020
Alex Hope and her partner Dan bought Pet Necessities in 2020

The independent pet shop in Moreton-in-Marsh in the Cotswolds was established in February 1984 by Diane and Robert Dewbery. The duo said they set up the business after realising there wasn’t a pet store within 15 miles of the town – and as growing numbers of people decided to own an animal.

The pair sold the business for an undisclosed sum to former nanny Alexandra Hope and her partner, agricultural contractor Dan, in 2020 when they decided to retire.

Ms Hope said there was “huge demand” during the pandemic, especially with home deliveries as people didn’t want to venture out.

She said: “People getting pets (especially dogs) soared during lockdown and therefore the demand for animal supplies and accessories really increased. We saw a big increase in food sales, dog crates, accessories and everything you need for a new pet.”

Leo Charley & Me, Staffordshire

Kim O’Donnell is the founder of Leo Charley & Me
Kim O’Donnell is the founder of Leo Charley & Me

Kim O’Donnell retired after a 40-year career as a nurse to set up a handmade pet accessory business in June 2019.

“My daughter lost her job and came home so I taught her to sew and we diversified by making scrubs for the NHS staff with other pet businesses donating fabric to the cause. Then people started asking for face masks to match our dog bandanas so a new range of matching accessories for owners was created.”

The pair sold more than 1,000 with 15% of all sales going to charity Spaniel Aid UK. The business has since won an Animal Star Award for its efforts as well as Theo Paphitis’s Small Business Sunday competition on Twitter.

Over the next 12 months Ms O’Donnell is planning to get back out to dog shows and fairs, and is hoping to get her accessories stocked in boutique shops. She is also planning to release new prints for National Twin with Your Dog Day in December.

Mikki Pet, Surrey and Somerset

Mikki Doodles Dematter grooming tool
Mikki Doodles Dematter grooming tool

The business, which was founded in 1980 and has offices in Dorking and Taunton, designs and manufactures a range of pet grooming, care and training products.

It has seen a large increase in the sales of grooming products during the pandemic, while professional groomers were closed.

According to the firm, it also responded to the consumer trend explosion for Poodle crossbreed ownership – Cockapoo, Cavapoo and Maltipoo – and developed and launched a new grooming range called Doodles that has been created specifically for their coat type.

Poppy + Ted, Kent

Paige with Margot the pug and Ted the Frenchie
Paige with Margot the pug and Ted the Frenchie

Paige Gillard, the founder and director of Rochester-based dog accessories company Poppy + Ted, has grown the brand from a side hustle to an Instagram community of more than 150,000 followers in just four years.

Originally looking for a creative outlet, Ms Gillard started the business as a hobby in 2018 at her dining room table. Designing and sewing every item herself, the brand quickly tapped into the fast-growth Instagram dog community and soon captured the hearts of dog owners across the UK. Within minutes of launching on Shopify, Poppy + Ted’s first customer had made a purchase in the US.

Three years on, Ms Gillard now leads a team of five, oversees the manufacturers and leads on marketing and social media strategy for the brand. The company has seen over 230% increase in total orders year-on-year to date.

Your Dog’s Club, Cheshire

Your Dog's Club, Cheshire
Your Dog’s Club, Cheshire

The online retailer specialises in eco-friendly food, toys and accessories. Founded in March 2019 by Jon Ralph, the business has grown quickly throughout the pandemic, acquiring more than 22,000 registered customers in 2021 and experiencing 250% revenue growth.

Mr Ralph was inspired to set up the company after going on holiday to the Isle of Louis in 2018 with his wife Sabra and dog Amie, and struggling to find something to protect Amie from the blazing sun.

He felt there was a gap in the market for a reliable online community that could provide information for dog lovers in one place.

Your Dog’s Club is now in its second phase of crowdfunding.

Camp Tails Doggy Daycare, Suffolk

Jon Kay runs Camp Tails Doggy Daycare
Jon Kay runs Camp Tails Doggy Daycare

The business was founded in 2016 in Bury St Edmunds by Jon Kay who wanted a “life change” after he and his wife lost three family members in a short space of time.

The former quantity surveyor said Loki, the couple’s black labrador, had become “such an important part” of their lives he found himself looking for something to do with dogs. He bought into a new franchise concept, later breaking away to become independent in early 2019 and relaunching as Camp Tails Doggy Daycare.

“I had found my passion and purpose, having a natural affinity and ability to communicate with dogs I fast became the local go to dog expert and loved helping our community,” he said.

In late 2020, Mr Kay launched a new grooming service (The Groom Cabin) after being concerned about the impact Covid was having on the business and how reliant it was on one service. He said the last year has been “incredible” after experiencing what he calls the “puppy pandemic boost”.

Following a surge in growth in 2021, the business has just exchanged contracts to move to bigger premises (nearly three times the size of the last one), which will house a new dog hotel as an alternative to kennels. The team has also grown to 13 staff – up from nine before the pandemic – and Mr Kay expects to hire a 10 further team members in 2022 as the business expands.

Calne Pet Supplies / The Puppy Adviser, Wiltshire

Julia Jarvis, owner of Calne Pet Supplies and The Puppy Adviser, runs loose lead training courses in Wiltshire
Julia Jarvis, owner of Calne Pet Supplies and The Puppy Adviser, runs loose lead training courses in Wiltshire

Independent pet shop Calne Pet Supplies opened in 2015 and is owned and run by Wiltshire dog trainer Julia Jarvis.

In December 2021, Amanda Lee joined the business on a full-time, permanent basis helping to run the shop. Alongside her store, Ms Jarvis also runs dog training business The Puppy Adviser, which she launched in January last year.

Based between Calne and Devizes, The Puppy Adviser offers training, support and advice for dogs of all ages and breeds and their humans through tailored individual training sessions, packages and consultations alongside group classes and workshops held regularly throughout the year.

Beco, London

Beco is based in Wimbledon
Beco is based in Wimbledon

Launched in 2008, Beco makes everything from dog food to accessories, poop bags and toys, all from sustainably sourced ingredients and materials.

According to the firm, everything is sourced and made as locally as possible, and the company is on its way to being certified carbon neutral and an official B Corp.

The business has grown 40% year-on-year over the past two years as demand has surged for eco products among consumers. Beco said it has seen sales of its compostable poop bags rising by 218% and Wild Boar dog food up 140%.

The company’s offices in Wimbledon are 100% powered by renewable energy, too.

PitPat, Cambridge

Andrew Nowell is the founder and CEO of PitPat
Andrew Nowell is the founder and CEO of PitPat

The pet tech company was set up by Andrew Nowell in 2016 and makes a range of devices including the ‘Fitbit for dogs’ – an activity monitor for pooches. The company also produces a GPS device and recently launched a range of dog food, with other ventures in the pipeline.

Mr Nowell, who worked at an engineering consultancy for five years designing and managing new wearable and smart home products, said launching PitPat allowed him to combine his two passions – dogs and technology.

The Cambridge-based company employs more than 30 staff including technologists and vets.

Mr Nowel said awareness of pet technology and wearables had increased “hugely” since PitPat was founded.

The company has seen year-on-year sales increases, with shipments of products rising by 39% in 2021 compared to 2020. Since its inception, the business has sold more than 100,000 devices.

HugglePets, Wolverhampton

After a successful crowdfund, HugglePets was able to open its own community aquarium and sensory activity centre on site
After a successful crowdfund, HugglePets was able to open its own community aquarium and sensory activity centre on site

The family-run business and retail store was founded in 2012 by son and father team Mike and Ian Dixon. It now employs some 25 full-time staff plus a community team who are involved in HugglePets in the Community – a not-for-profit using animal therapy to help people’s mental health.

Following recent crowdfunding efforts the business opened its own community aquarium and sensory activity centre on site – a first for the West Midlands – as well as a reptile room where it keeps all of its reptilian and invertebrate creatures.

According to the business, the pandemic saw demand for pet products increasing and it has grown its team over the last two years. HugglePets said it has doubled its previous year’s turnover and is now a multi-million pound business.

“We like to think we’ve come out of the pandemic a stronger company with a bright vision for the future,” the company said.

Like this story? Why not sign up to get the latest South West business news straight to your inbox