Two special people attended the 25th anniversary of Britain’s first animal superstore – the founder and a shop worker who has been there from day one.
Pets at Home, based on Chester’s aptly named Greyhound Retail Park, hosted a party for long-serving colleagues and guests including Anthony Preston who had the idea in the first place and Carol Burton who has worked at the store from the beginning.
It was back in 1991 that Mr Preston brought the concept of a superstore for pets to the British market with the opening of the Chester outlet – a second city store would later open at Boughton.
Such was the novelty of his vision that Sky News even covered the launch.
Today there are more than 420 stores in the chain and Mr Preston, who received a CBE for services to business, entrepreneurship and philanthropy in the New Year’s Honours, is in the Sunday Times Rich List.
Mr Preston, who sold the group on for £230m in 2004 but still retains a small stake, recalls: “It was a slow start. There was a retail recession at that time and it was two years before we opened our second store. I remember thinking when we had three or four stores that it would be great if we could increase to half-a-dozen.”
Carol Burton has worked at the outlet since it opened in April 1991 and is the retailer’s longest serving colleague. Carol was presented with a long service award at the party.
Carol, 60, from Blacon, told The Chronicle: “It’s gone by too quickly. Every day is different. No one day is the same. And the atmosphere is brilliant. The colleagues I work with are great, they make all the difference and of course we are here to help our customers.”
Carol, a mother and grandmother, is a pet lover herself with two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Charlie and Henry as well as fish and her husband Paul, an HGV driver, has an aviary with birds such as cockateels.
“I am an animal lover. You have to be in this job,” added Carol, who was interviewed for the job by Mr Preston himself all those years ago. “I think Pets at Home has worked because it’s got everything. If you’ve got a cat or a dog we’ve got everything here under one roof that you would need.”
Paying tribute, Peter Pritchard, chief executive officer (retail), commented: “It’s an impressive achievement to have been with a company since it started, so we’re honoured to have Carol here with us today to celebrate such a special occasion.
“There’s no doubt that Pets at Home has really caught the imagination of pet owners across the UK in the 25 years it has been looking after the welfare of their animals. As to what we can expect for the future - more of the same in the next 25 years!”
To date, Pets at Home has more than 420 stores across the UK, 388 vet practices and 240 grooming salons, and employs more than 10,000 colleagues to deliver its service. Colleagues are recruited for their passion for pets and people, and their desire to share their love of pets with customers.