Greencross says it can resist Amazon

petbarnPet care retailer and veterinary services provider Greencross believes it can withstand the entry of online retailing giant Amazon into the Australian market because its business has unique features.

Greencross chairman Stuart James says his company has the advantage of employing more than 650 vets and can provide a “one-stop” for pet owners seeking veterinary services, grooming salons, dog wash, pet insurance, pet hotel booking, dog walking and obedience training.

James also says that Greencross has a large and loyal customer base, with more than 87 per cent of the group’s sales made on the group loyalty card, which provides the company with in valuable data on pet owners’ shopping habits.

“A lot has been made recently of the potential impact of Amazon on the Australian retail landscape,” James said at the company’s annual general meeting in Wednesday.

“In response to this discussion, it is worth pointing out that our business has many unique features which differentiate us from both online and bricks-and-mortar competitors.”

James said Greencross is taking steps to upgrade its store formats, with greater emphasis on services and pet interaction.

Greencross is also expanding its own online business, which grew by 55 per cent in fiscal 2017.

He said click-and-collect sales, where customers order online and pick up the goods in-store had grown to over 40 per cent of online transactions and could not be replicated by pure online retailers.

“I firmly believe Greencross has the right platform and business strategy in place to enhance our position as the leading specialist player in the Australian pet care market,” James said.

Chief executive Martin Nicholas said in a trading update that so far this financial year Greencross is trading in line with management expectations, and the pet care business is proving resilient in a downbeat consumer environment.

Group total sales are up by 8.5 per cent and group like-for-like sales are 4.4 per cent higher.

Retail like-for-like sales have risen by 4.1 per cent, and Australian veterinary like-for-like sales are up 5.4 per cent.

Greencross expects to add 15 stores and 20 in-store clinics to its network in fiscal 2018.

The pet chain also announced chief financial officer Warwick Thresher will leave the company in the first half of FY2018, after deciding to relocate with his family to the UK.

“During Warwick’s three years with the Company he has played a significant role in establishing our reporting systems and assumed primary responsibility for financial planning and analysis across the Group,” said Nicholas.

“In a period of significant growth, he has overseen an improvement in the Company’s operating cashflows and reduced leverage whilst playing a key role in debt refinancing.”

An executive search for a new CFO in partnership with Heidrick & Struggles is underway.

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