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How to Start a Pet Shop Business: A Complete Guide

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How to Start a Pet Shop Business: A Complete Guide
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It’s estimated that pet owners in the UK spend more than £8 billion annually on supplies for their furry friends. During the pandemic, it’s thought that 3.5 million dogs were purchased, which means annual spending is only likely to increase.

Needless to say, with so many pet owners in the UK, there’s a huge demand for pet shops. If you have the love, passion, drive, experience and animal know-how, it’s a wonderful time to start a pet shop business in the UK.

In a world where it’s easy to order pet supplies at the click of a button, pet shops still play an important role. Unlike online retailers, pet shops offer a personalised service and can help owners and potential owners with questions and concerns and offer advice. This helps build trust with your customers and ensures they keep coming back to you again and again. Today, pets aren’t just a part of a family – they are family – and owners will often go to great lengths to make sure they’re well looked after.

If being a pet shop proprietor sounds like something you’d be barking mad to pass up, then this article is for you. We’re going to explain how to start a pet shop business in the UK, so you can take the first steps to making your dreams a reality.

Is it profitable to enter the pet business market?

Before you start, you need to answer, is a pet shop a good business to open right now? It’s thought that between 2022 and 2031, the pet shop market will increase by 5.2%. In the past 20 years, the amount we spend on our pets has increased by more than 150%. This shows that the boom in pet ownership isn’t showing any signs of slowing down and there’s plenty of money to be made by pet shops.

It is, of course, a competitive market – just like any other business. High-street pet supply chains and supermarkets offer a wide range of pet products and services, but they often lack that personal touch and expertise. That’s where your pet shop can step in to raise the bar for pet care. Whether you’re looking to open a general pet shop or a niche pet shop (such as a shop focusing on exotic animals such as reptiles or tropical fish) so long as you approach it carefully and thoughtfully, it can absolutely be profitable.

Steps to starting a pet business

Ready to become the next hottest thing in pet supplies? Here’s our step-by-step guide for how to start a pet shop business in the UK. Or, for more general information, we also have a complete guide to starting a business.

Step 1: Consider your brand and positioning and find your niche

As any business owner will attest, there’s a lot of competition out there. You may have the skill, knowledge and passion, but it doesn’t count for much unless you stand out from the crowd.

The first thing to do is think about what your pet shop business will do differently. What will stop pet owners from heading to the supermarket or a high-street brand and choosing to walk in through your doors instead?

Maybe your pet shop will specialise in cats. Maybe it will have the biggest selection of dog food in the UK. Maybe you’ll theme it to look like customers are trekking through the jungle. Or what if you have a king cobra on display in the back (so long as you have a dangerous wild animal licence, of course)?

Your unique selling point (USP) should revolve around what you do best. What are you passionate about? What do you know loads about? What pet-owning pain point do you want to solve to ensure customers keep coming back?

Because you’re interested in opening a pet shop, you presumably know a thing or two about pet care already. Think about the types of questions pet owners ask, the products they buy most regularly and the problems they face, and focus your USP around those.

It’s also important to back this up with market research. Data can help you identify gaps in the market and show you how you can fit in to make your business a success.

But, however you choose to position yourself, the most important thing is to do it well.

Your branding

Once you know more about what your niche and brand values are, you can start thinking about branding. This includes:

  • A name

  • A logo

  • A mission statement

  • Your vision

  • Your tone of voice and messaging

If you have experience with these you can work on them yourself, or lean on professional help by hiring a branding consultant or a freelancer. Make sure you have a very clear idea of what you want your business to look like so you can accurately brief designers who can help bring your vision to life.

If you’re not very creative, there are ways to come up with pet shop business name ideas that are unique and memorable. Here are just a few:

  • Use alliteration: e.g. Peter’s Pets

  • Use puns: Barking Mad Pet Shop

  • Lean into your niche: Reptile Ssssupplies

  • Use a name generator, like the one offered by Shopify

  • Take a name from literature, mythology or history

These are just a few suggestions. Don’t hold back and let your creativity run wild!

Step 2: Consider legal requirements and regulations

There are several strict requirements and regulations to abide by when setting up your pet shop business.

Firstly, there are the laws every business owner must comply with, including those related to paying tax. If you plan to employ staff, you must have employers’ liability insurance and it’s recommended that you at least have public liability insurance too. The last thing you want is for someone to accuse your store of causing illness or injury and you don’t hold a valid policy.

It’s recommended that you register your business as a limited company to protect yourself and your business – here at SUAZ, we can help do that for you.

If you plan on selling pets you must also obtain a licence from your local authority. This authorises you to legally operate your business and it must be renewed every one, two or three years. If you don’t have a licence, you can be fined and even face imprisonment. To be granted a licence you must make sure that:

  • Animals are kept in suitable housing

  • Animals receive the food and water they need

  • Mammals aren’t sold when they’re too young

  • Animals are visited and offered exercise regularly

  • Effort is made to prevent pain and stop the spread of diseases

  • There’s an appropriate plan in place in the event of an emergency

  • Staff are trained to properly care for the animals

It’s also vital that you don’t sell an animal to any customer under the age of 16. This is a criminal offence in the UK.

And while it’s not a particularly exciting regulation, data protection and privacy laws must be adhered to at all times. So, when you collect and process customer data, ensure you comply with all regulations.

Am I allowed to sell pets?

Whether or not you choose to sell pets at your pet shop is entirely up to you, but you can only do so if you obtain a licence from your local authority.

A licence allows you to sell animals such as rabbits, guinea pigs, gerbils, non-venomous reptiles, insects, and hamsters. However, there are certain considerations to be aware of, as a pet shop license doesn’t mean you can automatically sell any type of animal. Restrictions include:

  • You can only sell puppies and kittens if you’ve bred them yourself

  • Mammals cannot be sold if they’re under eight weeks old

  • You cannot sell venomous or dangerous animals (this requires a separate licence)

There are many ethical considerations to think about when making the decision to sell pets at your pet shop. Only if you’re able to properly house, feed and look after them should this be something you consider. Not only from an ethical point of view, but if you don’t meet satisfactory standards you may fail to be granted a licence and you could face receiving a fine.

Step 3: Create a solid business plan

You know where you want to position your business and you know the legal requirements, so now it’s time to get a solid understanding of your business’ goals and how you’re going to achieve them.

Writing a business plan is tough, but it’s an essential part of the process. It’s something you can turn back to again and again to make sure you’re on track. It’s also imperative if you’re going to seek investors, as it tells them how you’re going to make sure you don’t lose their money.

We’ve covered how to write a business plan before, so you should have a full read of our guide before you pick up a pen or open Word. But, here’s a condensed version so you have a good idea about where to start: 

  1. Your executive summary – this is a summary of around one page that’s designed to tempt people into reading the rest. It should include the key points around your goals, stakeholders and opportunities for growth.

  2. Company description – Highlight your business, values and what’s important to you. It’s a chance to tell your story.

  3. Analyse the market – outline your market research and understanding of the pet supply industry, your competitors and your target audience. This shows why you’re the one to open this pet shop and how you’re going to sell your products to your customers, including marketing strategies.

  4. Your structure – This outlines your team and structure and what everyone’s responsibilities and experiences are.

  5. Your products and services – This explains what you’ll offer your customers, including your USPs, and how you fill a gap in the market.

  6. Financial plan – This outlines how your business will make money. It’s the main section investors will look at so you understand how your business will grow. 

  7. SWOT analysis – This outlines your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats - aka SWOT.

  8. Appendices – This includes additional information and documents that are relevant and add value.

Step 4: Choose a solid business location

Choosing where to base your pet shop is vital. You need to strike the right balance to ensure customers can easily get to you, the space itself and the cost. When looking for a location, you should ask the following questions:

  • Is the space big enough for all your products and the services you want to offer?

  • If you plan on selling animals, is it suitable so that you’ll get your pet shop licence without any problems?

  • Does it comfortably fit within your budget (also ask about hidden costs)?

  • Is there any competition in the area?

  • Is there vehicle access?

  • Is there a high level of foot traffic?

  • Are there any regulations to be aware of?

  • What is the condition and are there any maintenance issues to be aware of

  • Is there room to grow?

  • What are the terms of the lease?

  • Does it meet health and safety requirements?

Only when you have satisfactory answers to all of your questions that align with your business plan should you go ahead with your chosen location. This is one of the biggest stages in starting your pet shop business, so consider it carefully and go with your head, not your heart.

Step 5: Come up with a marketing strategy

Once you’ve chosen your location, it’ll hopefully have a high amount of passing foot traffic, which will naturally draw customers to you. But, this and the subsequent word of mouth aren’t likely to be enough, no matter how low your prices are or how amazing your service is.

That’s why you need to come up with a marketing strategy that will tell your customers who you are and why you’re the one to help them overcome their problems, whether that’s by offering the products or services they need, low prices, a wide selection or something else.

The only thing is, marketing takes time or money – and often both.

The first thing you need to do is define your audience. What type of pet owners are your ideal customers? Look at age, gender, interests, lifestyle, values, income… the more specific you can be, the more targeted you can make your marketing.

You should set yourself clear SMART goals, which are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. You should always refer to these to make sure your marketing efforts are on target and you’re not wasting your resources.

Next, based on your target audience, choose the most relevant marketing channels. This could include:

  • Social media

  • Website

  • Email marketing

  • Online advertising

  • Print media

  • Networking

  • Collaborations

If you also have a website and sell products through it, you can help increase its visibility with an SEO and content marketing strategy, too.

When it comes to marketing, there’s no magical winning formula and for newcomers, it can involve a lot of trial and error. You’ll be in a great position to do some marketing yourself, such as social media, but other forms can be tricky and time-consuming. It can be worth hiring a marketing agency or freelancer to do some of the more difficult marketing tasks for you, but this will, of course, come at a cost. However, this is a key part of starting a business, because it helps customers find and spend their money with you.

Make sure to monitor spend and return on investment (ROI). When you know about what strategies work best for converting customers, focus your efforts on doing more of that.

Step 6: Have a plan for financing and funding

Starting a pet shop can be a hugely fruitful and rewarding experience, and if you have the right level of expertise, experience and dedication, you can no doubt make it a success. The only issue is, to get to that stage, it can be expensive. Some services can help keep costs down, like company formation packages, but there are still lots more to be aware of, including everything from deposits to insurance.

Unless you have savings or you’re an entrepreneur with assets you can sell to pursue your next venture, you need a plan for securing financing and funding.

There are several ways you can secure funding:

  • A business loan

  • Investors

  • Crowdfunding

  • Grants

Not all options will be available to you, but to give you the best possible chance you’ll need to have followed the previous steps in this guide, specifically about writing a business plan. The only way to receive a business loan or the interest of an investor is by having a solid business plan with financial figures that shows them you know what you’re doing. Because if your business fails, they lose out, so they’re not ones to take risks.

You always need to keep a close eye on your finances. Don’t be reactive – be proactive. Make adjustments to your financial plan when necessary and make sure you do what you can to stick to your budgets.

For more detailed information, read our guide to startup loans and business financing.

How much does it cost to start a pet shop business?

The cost of starting a pet shop business can vary depending on a huge range of factors, but according to data, it will be approximately between £10,000 and £50,000. This includes costs related to:

  • Legal fees

  • Insurance

  • Deposits

  • Licences

  • Stock

  • Leases

  • Renovations 

  • Utilities

  • Equipment

  • Marketing

  • Staff

Create your pet shop business with SUAZ

Opening a pet shop won’t be easy, but it can be rewarding and lucrative. If you have what it takes, then you absolutely can make your business a success and fill a gap in the market to attract a legion of loyal pet-owning customers.

With the number of pets in the UK still on the up, now’s the time to follow through on your idea and open your dream pet shop.

Ready to go? Forming a company with SUAZ is easy. Form a company for free, or view our packages for more information.

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