It is not just real estate that has rebounded post the Covid-19 pandemic. The less-talked about pet retail industry has been chalking up double-digit growth in the past two years as pet-ownership or the number of pet parents balloons in the UAE.
According to data from Redseer Consulting, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the pet care market grew at a CAGR of 13 per cent in 2021-22 to reach $800m in 2022.
In the UAE alone, the pet care industry is worth $360m, with 1.5 million pet owners. A major player and an early mover in the UAE pet market is The Petshop CEO Amr Hazem. Hazem has been part of the industry’s growth story, as an entrepreneur and now as a top executive. He shares his journey and underscores the strengths of the nascent yet burgeoning industry.
Q. Tell us a bit about how you got started in the pet industry?
In 2018, I embarked on my journey in the pet industry, founding Petsville, a ‘home away from home’ for dogs. Petsville catered to a dog’s every need, offering services including daycare, grooming, and boarding.
I founded Petsville because I noticed a gap in the market for high quality, ‘pet-centric’ boarding and daycare services. My love for animals (I currently have six dogs, and that number keeps growing) was a key driver in my desire for Petsville to become a best-in-class dog care provider, as our dogs have always been at the heart of everything we do.
Back then, our region’s pet industry was in its infancy. In the last five years, however, things have changed dramatically, and for the better. Thanks to the efforts of leading players like The Petshop and Petsville, the industry has transformed into a mainstream retail sector.
My first involvement with The Petshop was in 2019, when I led the formation of a strategic partnership between Petsville and The Petshop, with the goal of creating synergy between these two market leaders and providing a more comprehensive pet services offering to pet parents.
Three years later, in 2022, I was approached by Aliph Capital, the owners of The Petshop, offering me the role of CEO. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to lead an innovative, community-focused company in a sector I’m truly passionate about.
Since I took on this role in November last year, it’s been an exhilarating journey and there’s no turning back!
Q. What does it mean to be the CEO of a company that is ultimately responsible for the lives of so many pets?
It is a joy and a privilege – and of course a heavy responsibility – much like raising a family. At The Petshop, our mission is to support pet parents in providing the healthiest and happiest lives for their pets. This means giving them more quality time with their pets, helping them realise their pets’ full potential and providing them with educational tools – all while providing best-in-class products to enhance their pets’ lives.
There is no doubt existing and new pet owners in the region are seeking a high quality of pet care and well-being and embracing them as integral family members. I am proud to be able to help them achieve this via my role as CEO of The Petshop.
Q. Can you summarise the status of the UAE pet market today? And what milestones would you like to highlight about the industry…
The current UAE pet market is flourishing amid a surge in pet ownership, particularly post-pandemic. The country’s pet care industry is worth over $360m and is expected to reach $2bn by 2025 – which is rapid growth by any business sector standards.
People of all generations are embracing pets, with some pet owners spending as much as Dhs2,000 per month on them. Currently, 1.5 million pet owners in UAE own over 2 million pets, mainly cats and dogs – with twice the number of cats. Aquatics is also on the rise, with the increase in hobbyists in the region. Pet retail is growing globally, but the UAE’s growth comfortably outstrips other geographies – reflecting the growth in young and senior singles, and increased expats.
Naturally, this trend is beneficial for pet retail pioneers such as The Petshop. Our growth is online and offline. We’ve already seen online sales surge over 26 per cent in 2023, while we’re planning to open new brick-and-mortar stores in the coming months.
Q. Who is your average customer?
It is hard to define our ‘average’ customer as they are so varied, and profiles regularly shift as demographics and migration patterns change.
We have noted an increase in sole dweller customers – who have pets for company – and expats who have decided to become pet parents in the UAE.
As such, we don’t design our product range for the ‘average’ pet owner. Instead, we have a huge range of products – with strong sectoral development reflecting what dog, cat, bird or other pet owners need. We offer value for everyone, irrespective of desired spend, and have seen a high interest in luxury products, where we have developed an exclusive range.
Q. Can you share your insight about the growth of the pet consumer industry – online versus offline?
For The Petshop – both are very strong. Online services grew exponentially during the Covid-19 pademic, and has been sustainable since then. Our online sales have surged over 26 per cent in 2023, and we will open several new brick-and-mortar stores in the coming months.
The Petshop has long been renowned for its customer engagement, frequently hosting fun events such as dog yoga and providing personalised updates for pet parents who have placed their pets in our boarding facilities.
Consumers still want to take their pet, and go to stores, try something new and enjoy their time interacting with other customers. We see this demand and know there is a strong future for offline stores – for The Petshop anyway – which explains our planned store opening, as part of our strategy to grow turnover and market share.
Ultimately, it is about meeting different customer expectations and needs. There is no such thing as an average pet owner.
Q. What factors drove the acquisition by Aliph Capital? What are the macro strategies being worked upon by The Petshop?
Our acquisition by Aliph Capital was driven by the fund’s appreciation of the opportunity to consolidate the UAE and GCC’s fragmented pet retail market.
With the market growing so quickly, there is much potential for The Petshop to strengthen our home UAE market leadership, and grow across the wider GCC.
When it comes to macro-strategies, we are expanding our physical store presence (not all general retailers are lucky enough to have sufficient demand to do this!), enhance e-commerce capabilities, and broaden the range of products and services offered. These are important steps in our journey to becoming the Middle East’s go-to destination for all regional pet needs and to effectively service pet parents.
Q. With the change in demography in the country how are attitudes changing towards pets?
Demographic changes in the UAE are a notable driver of changing attitudes towards pets. Many now view pets as essential companions, with a 30 per cent increase in pet ownership over the pandemic. The rise of “pet parents” reflects the idea that pets are not just integral family members, but for some even “fur babies”. This has gone hand-in-hand with a greater priority on responsible pet ownership.
People are now willing to go to great lengths to ensure the well-being and happiness of their pets, driving increased spending on premium products and services – such as we provide.
This dynamic naturally benefits the pet services sector – at The Petshop, we’ve seen online sales increase by 26% throughout 2023, demonstrating the desire from pet parents to responsibly look after their pets and make their lives as comfortable as possible. This aligns with global trends; the value of the global pet care market is predicted to exceed $246bn in 2023, a 4.8 per cent increase from 2022.
Q. What will be the primary drivers of growth in this industry in the short-term and long-term?
Primary growth drivers in the UAE include a growing expat population and an increased demand for same-day or faster delivery services. We recently launched a new express delivery service for Dubai customers.
The industry is expected to keep growing steadily, with the Middle East’s pet sector projected to achieve over 10 per cent CAGR per year until 2030. Increased disposable income, greater awareness of the benefits of pet ownership, and a diverse range of pet types are all playing their part in this growth.