The Best Friends Journey
The Growth Fund identified the pet industry as an attractive sector which had traded resiliently through multiple economic cycles. Pet industry growth is supported by positive social trends – humanisation of pets and the premiumisation of pet care – leading to superstore formats winning share at the expense of smaller independent pet stores.
In 2012, The Growth Fund was introduced to Best Friends by Grant Thornton, having previously had positive experiences working on other Growth Fund portfolio businesses, in a ‘match-making’ exercise to provide growth capital and strategic guidance.
Best of breed business model
The disruptive big box pet retail format, already well established as the dominant model in Europe and the USA, was still in its infancy in Australia. Best Friends sought to mirror this model, opening large format stores averaging over 1200sqm and providing a full merchandise range and a variety of services including grooming and puppy schools.
Key to the model was the inclusion of an in-house ‘vet-in-a-box’ offering, which provides veterinary service care, advice and prescription medication, and acts as a strong driver of traffic to the retail store.
Taking on the big dogs
Having commenced with a single location in 2005, the company had grown to nine stores over seven years through acquisitions and greenfield development. At the time, better funded competitors were accelerating their roll-out, leaving Best Friends at risk.
With access to growth capital and strategic guidance, Best Friends is now barking with the big dogs – expanding into NSW and the ACT, taking on larger competitors with their full service model – with a vision to extend the network to over 45 stores and create the industry’s most differentiated provider of pet product merchandise and services.