JSE-listed retail landlord EPP is responding to the global rise in pet ownership and the needs of its pet-owning community by welcoming pets at the company’s shopping centres.
Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has seen a significant increase in the adoption of dogs and cats as people were forced to spend more time at home. The spike in pet adoptions symbolises the compassion and companionship strongly desired during a time of isolation, EPP said in a statement on August 5.
Young couples, empty nesters and single professionals are driving the rise in pet ownership, and EPP believes this new animal-loving lifestyle “requires the world to adapt to modern changes”.
To meet the needs of pet owners who have no ability or no wish to leave their pets alone while shopping, EPP decided to allow customers with small animals to visit its shopping centres.
Currently, pets are welcome at 17 retail assets managed by the company and shoppers already make use of this privilege.
“We want our shopping centres to be modern places, catering to the needs of a wide range of customers, including those who want to visit with their pets. We are giving them the opportunity to bring pets into the shopping centres on condition that they comply with a few simple rules that take care of the comfort and safety of animals and other visitors alike,” said EPP CEO Tomasz Trzósło.
Dogs, cats and other pets accompanying their owners can visit the malls’ common areas and food courts, where they will find plenty of drinking water. Animals can even go inside certain retailers’ shops that display EPP’s “Pets are Welcome” paw stickers on their windows.
The initiative also respects the rights of other shoppers, the company said.
However, in order to enjoy a fun and safe day of shopping, EPP stressed that pets should be supervised by their owners at all times.
Dogs should be leashed and muzzled and kept at a safe distance from others, while small animals can also be carried in a special container, bag or carrier.
To ensure the highest level of comfort for all shoppers, pet owners must clean up after their animals and are responsible for the behaviour of their pets.
With the pet economy thriving worldwide, EPP said the new pet-friendly lifestyle is having a positive impact on retail, being a stimulus for the industry and driving people to stores.
EPP referred to a report by Bloomberg, which stated that the bottom lines of animal health companies are enjoying a massive boost.
Locally, Flux Trends reported that South Africans already spend between R300-million and R600-million on pet food a year.
PayFast also recently revealed that stores catering for pet supplies were among the fastest new growth industries online during the pandemic, growing by over 1 000%.
Checkers piloted its first standalone pet store – Petshop Science – in Cape Town this year, and even pharmacy chain Dis-Chem has added a growing selection of pet food, toys and accessories to its shelves.
“Understanding this new trend is a must. Today’s younger consumers don’t only spend more money on their pets but also spend more time with their pets. Most see their four-legged friends as an integral part of the family.
“For most pet owners, enjoying a day out without their companion is simply out of the question. Yet, pets are not permitted at many locations that families typically enjoy meeting and spending time together. Luckily, there are already places, like EPP’s shopping centres, where everyone is welcome and can feel at home,” the retail property company concluded.