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The impact of Coronavirus on pet businesses with the Pet Industry Federation

by | October 1, 2020

Nigel and Alexandra Baker from the Pet Industry Federation share how pet businesses have adapted and thrived post lockdown.

They talk about the steps they put in place to try to protect people’s livelihoods in the early stages of lockdown when the world was turned on its head.

And they share advice on how petpreneurs can adapt to meet the needs of the thousands of new pet parents and learn essential skills at their second Pet Index in October 2020.

You can listen to the episode on the player link and below is a blog post highlighting the key points covered.

In March 2020 the world was turned upside when the devastation of Coronavirus hit the UK.

As well as the confusion as to what the virus was and what it was capable of, we feared for our health and that of our families and loved ones.

Then on March 23rd full lockdown hit. We were told to ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.’

For many working in the pet industry, this meant their businesses skidded to a halt overnight.

They were no longer able to go out and walk dogs or care for animals. Even pet shop owners feared they had to close putting lives of animals in jeopardy.

At the Pet Industry Federation, Nigel Baker, Chief Executive Officer and Alexandra Baker, Chief Operating officer had to very quickly make sense of the new restrictions.

In the days and weeks that followed, they lobbied ministers on a number of issues such as whether pet shops and groomers could operate, whether dog walkers were providing a key service and campaigned for financial support across the industry, particularly for catteries and kennels who were left devastated when the travel industry collapsed.

It meant people could go back to work in accordance with the guidelines and they supported business owners in learning what packages from the government were available.

Slowly, people were able to get back on their feet.

On top of this, the PIF’s own event, Pet Index, a trade show with stalls and seminars from industry experts plus the British Dog Grooming Championships, was set to take place in April.

But with the nation locked down, Nigel, Alexandra and their team took the event online instead creating Virtual Pet Index and a second is taking place on October 11th and 12th.

With the first VPI attracting visitors from Canada, America, India, New Zealand and Germany, the second is expected to draw an even larger crowd.

As well as trade stands where pet business owners can virtually showcase their products and services, there are seminars taking place throughout the two days.

Two debates will take place, one on the impact of COVID 19 on the pet industry and another on Pets and the Elderly.

Anyone working in the pet industry can register and it’s free to attend.

Recordings of the online training sessions are available after the event.

To register visit https://vpi.vfairs.com/

Key timings and topics covered in this episode:

2.00: Introduction to Nigel and Alexandra and the background of the Pet Industry Federation.

3.30: What the PIF has been doing to support members since lockdown was announced in March.

4.30: Working with the Government, DEFRA and the Canine and Feline Sector Group and processing the ‘see-saw of information’ for their members.

7.30: How pet shops selling small animals were hit and the steps that needed to be put in place to ensure thousands of baby animals survived.

8.54: Campaigning for groomers to be allowed to continue to operate.

12.34: Using social media to communicate in the crisis to keep members informed.

14.45: Alexandra shares her plans to be more involved with government legislation in the future around pets post COVID.

19.51: Nigel and Alexandra talk about licensing for dog walkers and the rise of the volunteer dog walker in lockdown.

25.11: The benefits of using a professional dog walker.

26.44: Launching the UK’s first Virtual Pet Industry Trade show, Virtual Pet Index in June 2020.

27.03: Welcoming 1700 visitors from all over the world, and how some trade stands reported having MORE sales than at a physical event.

31.33: The global reach of VPI  and how it attracted visitors from Canada, America, South America, right across Europe, down to South Africa, China, and Asia.

34.14: Tips on how to make the most of having a stand at VPI to attract global clients.

36.05: The positive side of Coronavirus, being creative, putting on a virtual show and reaching an audience they never would have imagined would come to a UK trade show.

39.02: What’s happening at VPI in October 2020.

40.09: What’s lined up, from taking awesome smartphone photos to packaging to the transport of animals, pet bereavement and American industry experts reflecting on what the next big thing is to hit the UK.

45.00: How to register for the event and take part.

46.50: How the pet industry has adapted and made business owners look inwards, reflect and adapt to serve what’s happening in the world today.

48.43: Can COVID be a positive for the pet industry?

49.15: The puppy boom and concerns about where puppies are coming from.

52.29: How life slowing down has inspired people to have pets and how lockdown has lifted barriers to pet ownership.

54.12: How pet business owners can move and evolve and emerge stronger from the crisis by diversifying.

54.56: Why it’s vital that petpreneurs find a route to communicate with new pet owners to encourage them to use your business.

55.36: What to expect from VPI.

Finally, I’m doing a talk on how to find stories in your pet business. If you’re coming along, there are two worksheets that might be helpful.

You can download them here:

Pitch worksheet

Story ideas worksheet


Register for Virtual Pet Index here.

Learn about how blogging can help your pet business (recording from the first Virtual Pet Index in June 2020)

If you found this post helpful, you might like to read Nigel’s interview ahead of the Pet Index: What to expect from Pet Index or Highlights from the Petcare Innovation Summit

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