Shares of Chesire-based Pets At Home, the retailer of pet food, accessories and veterinary services, fell about 7% after it said its revenue grew 7.8% to £898.9 million in the year to March 29 but statutory profit before tax fell 16.6% to £79.6 million amid the ongoing investment of a transition plan.
Peter Pritchard, the new CEO of Pets At Home, said: “Our plans to reposition retail are working, more customers are coming back to shop with us, and we are committed to returning the business to profit growth.
“But it hasn’t been easy.
“We took decisive action, threw passion and energy into it, and delivered targeted pricing changes to give customers the products that mattered most to them, with the service and value they expect from us.
“Our product innovation this year has been the best I can remember and the investment we made in the development of a subscription service is bringing some excellent results, as is Order In-Store, which brings our full online range to every store in the business.
“The veterinary services market is a very attractive space in which we can grow.
“We have a profitable business delivering strong returns, achieved largely through our preference to work in partnership with vets who share in the success of their practice.
“The shortage of qualified vets in the UK remains an industry wide problem, so we have chosen to slow our practice rollout to be sure we open practices in quality locations for the best vet partners.
“With slower rollout we can, and need to, focus more on strategies to accelerate growth in our existing practices, where we know there is still huge potential …
“As our new CEO, my plan has a bigger focus on digital, tapping into the vast potential of our customer and pet data, and taking action to ensure our vet business reaches its potential.
“Our market has a track record of resilience in a downturn and as we adapt to a changing environment, we will emphasise the things that make Pets at Home unique and best placed to serve the UK’s pet loving owners.”
In its outlook and guidance, Pets At Home said: “The pet care market remains resilient, with growth in pet products estimated at c2% in 2017, and veterinary services at c5%.
“We again grew our market share in the vet segment and are pleased to say that following our price repositioning work in retail, we have won back share in the food and accessories markets.
“FY19 will be the second of our three year financial transition back to sustainable profit growth, and following our progress in FY18, we are determined to achieve our plan.
“In the coming financial year we are targeting like-for-like revenue growth ahead of the market in both Retail and our Vet Group, and a transition back to low single digit underlying group profit growth.
“We remain a cash generative business with a priority to invest in our core capabilities, particularly our Vet Group.”