The luxury pet company George Osborne loves tells us it's making a killing from the 'hound pound'
According to Pets at Home data, Britain is set to spend £6 billion ($9 billion) on their pets this year and research by Capital One says spending on pet presents has grown by £3 million in the last 2 years.
But most of this is on run of the mill pet accessories - it's not that easy to pamper your pet.
This is where Pets Pyjamas has found its niche.
The company - founded in 2011 by Denise Elphick, Karen Hanton, Olaf Siedler - marries luxury, fashion, and travel for people who are crazy about their pets.
The company has a big following and has thank you letters on the wall from the Osborne family - UK Chancellor George Osborne, a separate letter from their Bichon Frise "Lola Osborne"(in comic sans), and a third from Osborne's wife.
Pets Pyjamas does luxury handmade pet accessories, such as handmade leather collars and sumptuous doggy jackets. But it also does decadent tailor-made holidays for you and your pet, and even has a dog concierge service.
Gracia Amico, who was appointed CEO in 2014, has championed the bespoke dog-friendly holidays and says they are helping turnover rocket.
Lianna Brinded/Business Insider
"We now have over 200 hotels and 100 cottages who are on board and everyone is starting to understand the importance of the 'hound pound,' which is sales made from pet related products and services.
"Dogs are an essential part of the family for many people and some wouldn't be able to travel at all if they can't take their dogs so we decided to apply the Pets Pyjamas brand to holidays."
According to Euromonitor International's World Travel Market global trends report, British hotels could increase revenues by 30% per year if they allowed people to bring their pets.
"No where else does what we do," Amico says. "Yes, there are some accommodation websites that allow you to choose 'dog friendly' places to stay but they're just tick boxes. You don't know if they allow the pets to stay in the room when you're out or have to be put in the car while you are having dinner. What we do is completely different."
"All our hotels and cottages are beautiful, but [we] also make sure that dogs go free and that it fully accommodates your pet, for example, allowing you to leave them in the room and also being able to accompany you for dinner in some cases.
"If they can't accommodate the dinner aspect, then they have to at least provide services that allow your dog to be looked after if you pop out. For example, you could go for a spa treatment while you dog could get groomed and smell and look great by the time you return.
"We also provide a wonderful box of goodies for you on arrival, personalised for your dog, and can design holiday packages, costing all the way up to £10,000 ($15,000). We always overdeliver."
Lianna Brinded/Business Insider
Amico, who is a veteran in the e-commerce and fashion world, believes that the key to the company's success is that it "overdelivers," has high-quality products, and always makes sure there is the element of bespoke to its services. In other words, she says, Pets Pyjamas "attracts you in one way and keeps you coming back for more. It's a very holistic business."
Amico says they are the first group to "curate" high-end pet related products, that range from £10 ($15) collars to limited items that can cost thousands of pounds. You won't see plastic squeaky toys or budget dog bowls anywhere on site.
"What's interesting is that our customers, if they buy a holiday, they come back to the site for accessories and vice versa," Amico says. "We also put a lot of time into making sure the website is tailormade to breeds. For example, what you want to buy for your pug versus my lurcher is very different."
"We also make sure we are content rich and have articles, lists and advice from celebrity pet owners, trainers, vets and others."
"The 'internet' used to be a dirty word in the luxury world"
Lianna Brinded/Business Insider
Amico wanted to be in business from an early age but decided to take up a language that would be key in the business world instead - Mandarin.
After completing a Masters in Chinese, with several facets of an MBA, marketing, business and finance embedded into the degree, she launched a fine Italian jewellery and leather goods e-commerce business named after herself when dot com was in its infancy in the 1990s.
"I absolutely loved it and for the 5 and a half years I did it, it was great," she said. "I had £500,000 ($754,000) in venture capital investment but it was a steep learning curve and quite lonely. I had a small team but when the dot com bubble burst, I didn't have all the answers. But I learned so much and realised that I wanted to stay in e-commerce. There was great potential online."
After the Amico site, she worked for a bed linen company to expand their offering online and then rose up the ranks in the world of e-commerce and fashion. She ended up working at Burberry in the e-marketing department and made the group "super commercial."
"The 'internet' used to a little bit of a dirty word in the luxury fashion world but after a year they became super commercial online," she says.
She said she was hungry for more innovation, which led her to Topman where she ran the e-commerce department with just two people. Within 5 years, she grew sales online from £2 million ($3 million) to over £50 million ($75.4 million) with a team of 45.
"I don't know what it was like across the rest of the Arcadia group [the company that owns Topman] but it was very entrepreneurial in Topman. We could move fast. For example, one day I just spoke to the tech people and asked for a US site and it was done quickly and then we started trading in the US," said Amico. "However, the bigger we got, the more we slowed down in development."
She then went to Hobbs in a similar role but "didn't find it entrepreneurial enough." Immediately afterwards, she was poached by long-term business friend and co-founder of Pets Pyjamas Karen Hanton and the rest is history.
"We have only scratched the surface in Britain and we're getting more and more hotels and holiday destinations on board here, but continental Europe is an easy [expansion option] for us," Amico says.
"We have a good relationship with the Eurotunnel already and we've already started scouting places in the South of France.
"There's one place which is absolutely beautiful and is right near the sea. It also has a Michelin star restaurant where the chef has even agreed to make dinner for your dog."
The US, Japan, and other European countries are other areas for potential expansion. Partnerships are in the works. The group has launched its own range of dog jackets, which will be sold in Accessorize.
And Amico is also focusing on the tech side of things, given her background in e-commerce.
She says: "We are also creating an app that helps pets owners when they are travelling, whether they need to find dog-friendly restaurants or if there are some great places nearby to visit."
Given her roots in the first dot com bubble, does Amico think Pets Pyjama being a disruptor - a word loved by the tech community - is key to the company's success?
"We're very lucky here, we have a great tech team, great staff with a good pedigree," she said. "However, I wouldn't say we are disrupting. We are just moving everything on into the 21st century and ahead with the times."
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