Long read Retail From Chauf-fur to diamond dog collars, UAE pet sector booms By Shane McGinley August 29, 2022 My Second Home My Second Home in Dubai is a spacious, well equipped venue for dogs to play and socialise Steep rise in pet ownership boosts businesses across the sectorThriving demand for high-end and bespoke pet productsBoom in pet sitting, grooming, boarding and transport services Whether it’s on a doggie cut and blow dry, a luxury kennel stay, or the finest food and bling accessories, UAE households spend nearly a quarter of a billion dollars on their four-legged friends every year. Market research firm Euromonitor International estimates that the UAE pet care industry will be valued at around AED854.4 million ($232.65 million) this year and will grow by around 12 percent per annum over the next few years. New $800m ‘ultra app’ aims to shake up crowded Gulf marketLet the tills ring out: retail is back with a vengeance in the UAE During the height of the pandemic in 2020, expenditure rose by nearly 20 percent, as homebound residents looked to their furry friends for companionship. UAE-headquartered Pet Corner has seen a steep rise in pet ownership. As a result, the company has added three new stores since 2021, bringing its network to 10, while it has also tripled its number of mobile grooming vans and doubled its workforce to 120 people. “The pandemic has helped our business grow two-fold,” Sidarth Mahindra, chief pet officer at Dubai-based Pet Corner, told AGBI. “People were longing for companionship. Couples who chose not to have children decided to dedicate their lives to a pet and make it part of their family, or those families that had children wanted to get a pet.” For luxury-loving, high-end clients, the company launched ‘The Pet Corner Elite Club’ this summer, which includes premium items such as diamond and gemstone studded collars for dogs. The Haute Hound collection, for example, features a bow-shaped centrepiece brooch with about 2.6 carats of certified natural diamonds and about six to seven natural rubies encrusted on 18 carat gold. The collars retail from AED37,000. Mahindra said they had seen particularly strong demand for these high-end products. Pet Corner offers the Haute Hound collection – a diamond collar is AED37,000 Pampered pooches Amer Salah, managing director of BookMyPet.com, which offers a range of services for pets, agreed that demand has been high, especially for mobile grooming services. He said the biggest benefit of the platform is that customers can now compare prices and see how much they vary across different providers. “The prices here in the UAE range from extremely high to really low. We can compare prices, we can compare different facilities; this never existed for pet parents here in the UAE. “It encourages a competitive landscape because pet service providers did not feel the competitiveness as they weren’t really being compared anywhere.” The UAE also recently introduced pet insurance policies for owners, and Salah said this has also helped to streamline the sector and control spiralling costs. “I think it is something that’s beneficial for the pet parent community. It regulates prices indirectly, because insurance companies are trying to standardise prices and also trying to regulate the amount of vet checkups and the different tests that are actually required for each pet,” he said. Splashing out: Dog owners bring their pets to My Second Home for supervised recreation Five-star kennels With travel borders now reopening as a result of the pandemic, Salah said pet boarding facilities have been in high demand. Of the 32 offered on his platform, he said this summer most were at maximum capacity. One of the high-end boarding facilities is My Second Home, a 5,800 square metre pet resort which opened at Dubai Investment Park in April 2015, with a $2.7 million investment from co-founder Sanjiv Dhiman. Offering a five-star service and facilities, such as spa facilities and the world’s largest indoor dog park and play area, complete with a pool. With 180 suites, prices start at AED150 plus VAT per night, all the way up to AED500 for a night in the luxurious Presidential Suite. Last year, the company opened a second pet resort in Dubai’s central Al Quoz area, and it is currently in the midst of a $10 million expansion plan to franchise the model across the Gulf. Grooming is one of the most popular pet services in the UAE, especially home visits With around 4,000 members, co-founder Dhiman said the company is on course to generate annual revenue of $5 million by 2024. For owners who are only going away for a while, expat Claire Lambert set up a pet sitting service in 2015. With rates starting from AED89.25, the company has a range of services where sitters will visit a pet’s home, feed them and change their litter, all the way up to staying in the house while owners are away to play and take care of the animal while alone. Lambert said with UAE residents now travelling again, 2022 has been the company’s busiest year. Emirates SkyCargo, a subsidiary of the Dubai airline, has a service called Emirates Pets and it has also seen a surge in the number of animals booked on its flights this summer, reaching close to pre-pandemic levels. The airline transports around 300 pets per week to over 130 cities, with prices starting at around $500. Dubai startup Chauf-fur is a pet taxi service for any type or size of animal Chauf-fur services For pets who only need to travel short distances, Dubai startup Chauf-fur this year launched the first licensed pet taxi service in the UAE. The ‘Uber for pets’ can transport any type or size of animal and fares start from AED80. “If you’re wondering what kind of pets they take, there are no exceptions. Whether your dog needs a wash, your bird needs a groom, or your Guinea pig wants to meet his friends… These guys have you covered, anything is paw-sible,” a Chauf-fur spokesperson said. One stop off for pet taxi users is likely to be Happy Bark Day, a café in Dubai’s Business Bay dedicated exclusively to dogs and cats. Opened in December 2021, the outlet offers pet-friendly desserts and snacks, with special birthday cakes retailing from AED250. South Korean owner Hyunsuk Ku said the feedback has been very positive and she is planning to expand with a second outlet in Abu Dhabi. Head to Dubai’s Happy Bark Day café for pet-friendly snacks for special occasions Also in Abu Dhabi is the UAE’s first of its kind gym to help improve pet fitness and health. As the number of dog owners increases, more people are struggling to keep their pets entertained during the hot summer days, which gave Mansour Hamadi, the owner of Posh Pets Boutique & Spa, the idea to open the indoor dog gym. Dog owners from all around the UAE now bring their pets to Hamadi’s gym, where their animals run on the treadmills specifically designed for canines. Following assigned safety measures, dogs wear a harness that is fastened to a spring system and run on a mechanical treadmill at their own speed for 15 minutes. On each visit, the dog’s workout time is gradually increased to ensure its muscles can properly adjust to using the machine at longer intervals. Posh Pets Boutique and Spa in Abu Dhabi has opened a gym to aid pet fitness Beware of the dog costs While some owners may be keen to splash out on gyms, diamond collars, five-star kennels and dog birthday parties, inflation has seen prices rising within the sector, and BookMyPet’s Salah said this has resulted in a rise in pet abandonment. “One of the biggest causes is definitely bills that they have to pay for their pets, mainly around veterinary services,” he said. In a bid to help owners, Lambert has set up a discount membership scheme called the Animalia Club. “So far, we have 2,500 members saving on everything from pet supplies, vet visits to grooming and dog-friendly restaurants. With so many pets being abandoned we wanted a solution which makes pet ownership more affordable,” she said, adding that the company also launched The Animalia Pet Industry Awards in November 2021, which will take place again later this year.