Higher demand for pets during the coronavirus lockdown has helped to drive Pets at Home to better-than-expected trading figures for the past quarter.
The retailer said it was “encouraging to see tangible signs of heightened demand for pet ownership” as people changed their lifestyles and looked for company during lockdown.
Shares in the company jumped higher after it reported a 1% decline in sales for the quarter to July 16, surpassing analyst expectations.
Like-for-like sales dipped 13.5% in the eight weeks from March 27 but surged by 12% in the subsequent eight weeks as demand returned.
The company said it was also boosted by a surge in membership for its VIP service, which provides customers with exclusive offers, with member numbers growing by 20.3% in the quarter.
Pets at Home kept the majority of its stores open throughout the lockdown after it was granted essential retailer status.
Peter Pritchard, group chief executive officer, said: “In spite of the rapid, wide-ranging and devastating effects of the pandemic, we have remained open for our customers throughout the period and we are emerging as a stronger business.
“The inherent resilience in our pet care model and the underlying pet care market, as well as encouraging signs of increased pet ownership, all underpin our confidence in seizing the future and progressing specific, strategic priorities.
“While much has changed, and continues to do so, we remain confident in the long-term sustainability of our pet care business, where the love of pets and the role that they play in our lives is only increasing.”
Sophie Lund-Yates, equity analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “First-quarter sales took a bit of a hit, but reassuringly momentum is returning faster than Pets at Home expected.
“As a nation we stockpiled from the pet superstore in the early days of lockdown, but this has since tempered which is why it now presents as a sales slowdown.”
Shares in the company moved 15.5% higher to 296.23p in early trading on Friday.