“Have you got two pounds?” Peter Pritchard, the Liverpudlian boss of Pets at Home, asks his PR minder.
“The share price is nudging on two pounds now,” he explains laughing, as we sit down next to the reptile isle at the retailer’s shiny new store in Stockport, near Manchester.
“I know I shouldn’t be obsessed about it but if it is, we’ve become a billion pound company. This would be a beautiful moment…”
Unsurprisingly this preoccupies him. We meet the day before Pets’ annual meeting with investors.
The stock has been ticking up recently as early signs of Pritchard’s plan to shake up the business begin to crystallise, though it is still 20pc off the 245p price it floated at five years ago.
“When I took over everyone said, ‘the internet is going to kill you’. We had so many critics. [But] while the past year has been the most horrifically painful, difficult, challenging, you name it, I’ve loved every second of it,” says the 49-year-old, who has two nearly three-year old cats, Leo and Oscar.
In October, six months into his tenure, the shares sank to an almost record-low as short sellers piled in, betting they would profit when the price dropped further. Around the same time Amazon began selling its own pet food in Europe, undercutting Pets on price, along with Germany’s Zooplus, another online seller of pet paraphernalia.