A feeling of déjà vu

The owners of one Petpals' franchise in the north-east went back in time this summer, by purchasing a business they had previously sold.

A feeling of déjà vu

The owners of one Petpals‘ franchise in the north-east went back in time this summer, by purchasing a business they had previously sold.

Some people say that life’s too short to go back and do the same thing all over again. But that’s exactly what the owners of the Darlington franchise of Petpals recently did. They purchased the Stockton branch, which they had sold some eight years earlier. Buying back Stockton “was like returning it to the family,” admitted David Gray who together with his wife Sallyann has been running the Darlington & Yarm franchise since 2006.

The couple currently employ over 20 staff, and they will now have territories which cover a combined total of over 100 square miles, in and around Teesside – from the west of Darlington to the east of Stockton. Stockton will provide the full range of pet care services that Petpals has to offer, and David said: “We sold Petpals Stockton to Christine Duncan back in 2012 because we wanted to focus more on Darlington and Yarm

“But lockdown gave Sal and I time to reflect on our business. We both decided we wanted to expand, so when Christine mentioned she was ready to sell the territory, it seemed the obvious thing to do. Buying it was like returning it to the family.” Both franchise branches provide professional pet care for animals such as dogs, cats, rabbits, gerbils and birds. Among the services they offer, are pet sitting, dog walking, cat visits and home boarding.

And the purchase has rekindled former friendships, as Sallyann explains: “It has been great getting back in touch with some of our old clients who we left eight years ago and are still clients today. We are hoping for a fairly seamless transition, as Christine is going to remain as our dog walking manager, along with two members of her staff who are currently on flexible furlough.”

Regarding the economic problems, caused by the Coronavirus pandemic which led to a nationwide lockdown back in March, David added: “This has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging times of our business lives. But we’ve continued to take on new clients every month and are optimistic that we’ll be back to full strength soon. 

“We have established strict protocols regarding caring for pets during the pandemic. These cover basic hygiene measures, for handing over and collection procedures. We’ve left nothing to chance and want to reassure people that we take the health of our clients, staff and pets extremely seriously.”

And Sallyann was thankful for the support provided by head office: “Being part of a franchise has really helped us weather the Covid-19 storm. Head office kept us informed during lockdown about latest Government guidance, while also directing us through the financial support options available. We’ve discussed furloughing staff and sometimes we’ve made calls just to offload and have a chat. It would have been tough to go through all of this alone.”

David and Sallyann regularly receive accolades, and in 2019 Darlington & Yarm was named ‘Top Franchise’ at the Petpals‘ internal awards ceremony.

Kevin Thackrah, managing director of Petpals, said: “David and Sallyann are a great example to all franchisees. They are 100% committed to their staff, clients, pets and ultimately their business. They are wonderful ambassadors for the Petpals brand and are unfailingly generous in their support of everyone within the network, regularly sharing their knowledge with other franchisees and staff alike.

“Covid-19 has indeed been a very challenging time for many but, as ever, David and Sallyann have taken it in their stride, which truly reflects their professionalism.”

Petpals is a full member of the British Franchise Association, committed to ethical franchising.

Andy Swales
Andy Swales