Veterinarian chain CVS saw its profits nearly double over the last six months of 2020 as the business avoided the hits the first lockdown brought while benefiting from a rise in pet ownership.
The company said profit hit £14.8 million, up 95%, on revenue of £245.6 million, up 9%.
Evidence has emerged in recent months that Britons bought more pets as they looked for company during the lockdown months.
Even before the pandemic pet ownership was rising, according to a survey by animal charity PDSA conducted in February and March last year. It showed there were 21 million cats and dogs in the UK.
It means a spike in demand for vets to neuter puppies and kittens or give them vaccinations – though not Covid-19 jabs.
“I don’t think our pet owners have yet started asking for (Covid) vaccinations,” said Ben Jacklin, the company’s chief operating officer.
But it will give CVS a longer-term boost as pets will need care throughout their lives, chief executive Richard Fairman added.
“Actually, it’s the later years of animals’ lives where they probably need most specialist intervention,” Mr Fairman said.
CVS also provides pet crematoria.
The latest set of results includes none of the months of the first lockdown, which was the worst for vets as they were initially forced to close.
During that lockdown sales in its small animal practice were down 50%, but as restrictions eased, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons changed its guidance to allow non-emergency work.
By the end of 2020 revenue had recovered to pre-Covid levels, CVS said, helped by online sales, which saw double-digit growth.
“Notwithstanding the ongoing uncertainty, we delivered a strong performance in the first half of the year, with our fully integrated model allowing us to cater for the veterinary needs of an expanding pet population,” Mr Fairman said.
“Trading in the first two months of our second half continues the positive trend and we remain well positioned to achieve both organic and acquisitive future growth.”
CVS employs 7,400 people, including about 1,900 veterinary surgeons and 2,500 nurses.
It runs 497 practices mainly in the UK, but also in Ireland and the Netherlands.