04/08/2016 07:55 BST | Updated 05/08/2017 06:12 BST

'Positive Start' For Pets At Home As First-Quarter Sales Rise 2.7%

Retailer Pets At Home put faith in the "resilience" of the pet market to see it through economic woes after the Brexit vote as it posted a pick-up in sales growth.

The Cheshire-based chain - which runs 431 stores across the UK as well as 391 veterinary practices - said like-for-like sales lifted 2.7% in its first quarter to July 21.

It hailed the firm's growing veterinary and pet grooming services and said demand for advanced nutrition products for pets was also a key driver behind the sales rise.

The sales growth marks a sharp increase on a year earlier, when sales lifted 1.7%, and a rise on the previous three months.

Recently-appointed chief executive Ian Kellett said he was "pleased with our positive start to the year".

He added: "Whilst the consumer outlook is uncertain, we remain confident in our long-term strategy and are reassured by the historical resilience of the pet market in times of economic downturn."

Pets At Home opened another four stores in the 16-week quarter, three vet practices and six more Groom Room salons as it continues to tap into the trend for cat and dog grooming.

The company plans to open up to 20 new Pets At Home superstores this year and roll out 45 to 55 vet practices and as many as 60 "grooming salons".

Pets At Home unveiled a 3.7% hike in annual profits to £90.2 million in May.

But at the time it warned that it will take a £2 million hit as a result of the national living wage, while it said moves to protect itself against the falling pound will also knock around £2 million off operating profits.

The group buys up to 55 million US dollars (£41.4 million) worth of products from Asia each year.

New boss Mr Kellett started in the role in April, taking over from Nick Wood.

Mr Kellett has been a member of the company's board for 10 years after joining as chief financial officer in 2006, before being promoted to chief executive of its retail division in June 2015.

He played a key role in the firm's flotation on the London stock market in March 2014, and its decision to snap up veterinary business Vets4Pets.