London-based Petspark.com announced this week that it has received an equity investment by Pets.com, marking the first international funding of a European online pet venture.
Company co-founder and CEO Nicholas Barnard, 41, told the E-Commerce Times that the funding gives Petspark.com the “ability to pick up the phone and get cutting-edge, market-leading information. It obviously means a lot to us.”
Just how much it means is not public knowledge, because the companies have not revealed the size of the investment. “It will allow us to financially commit to develop our European market at high speed,” Barnard said discreetly. He also deflected questions about how Petspark will be able to utilize its indirect relationship with Amazon.com, the world’s largest e-tailer. Amazon is an equity partner in Pets.com.
Building On Loyalty
Barnard is betting on the fact that human beings universally seem to develop intense bonds with their pets, and some have been known to skimp on spending for themselves and fork out big dollars for cashmere coats or expensive toys for their pets.
“In the U.S., I understand that some 90 percent of pet owners have photos of their pets at work,” Barnard commented. “We want to develop that integrated world here — make it the kind of place where people have a sense of belonging.”
The UK is the world’s third-largest pet care market, accounting for $3.25 billion (US$) in annual sales, and some 52 percent of the region’s households have a pet. By contrast, the United States pet care industry is estimated to generate nearly $15 billion annually and 61 percent of households have one or more pets in the home.
The brick-and-mortar pet care industry is fragmented, Barnard said, consisting of many independent smaller stores and a recent influx of larger chains like Petsmart, which has 95 stores.
Barnard’s company – the brainchild of London-based incubator Brainspark – is also developing Web sites for the German and French markets.
Germany is the world’s fourth largest pet care market and France the fifth, Barnard said.