Maxi Zoo: €10m expansion

Pet superstore chain Maxi Zoo is to open 20 new shops across Ireland in the next four to five years as part of a €10m expansion. The company, which is the largest retailer of pet-related products in Europe, will open a new shop in Bray next week.

Managing director Tony Cross said the expansion will be internally funded by the company's shareholders. He said their expansion plans had been held back by "the craziness of the rental market" and because the "cost of business is amazingly high in Ireland", but now they see "some reality coming to the market" and they have opted for an aggressive roll-out.

Cross has hired Johnny O'Connor of DTZ Sherry FitzGerald to source the new shops and the focus will be on Dublin this year.

The company has three different shops formats, only some of which actually sell pets, as the focus is on pet products.

The master franchise for Ireland is owned by Cross and its shareholders include Torsten Toeller, the German who founded the chain in 1990 at the age of 24. It now has more than 1,000 shops across Europe and is the third-largest franchise in Germany, behind McDonald's and Burger King.

Cross spent four years preparing for the opening of the first Maxi Zoo shop in Ireland in 2006. He moved into selling goods for pets because at the time in the US the toy industry was worth $22bn and the pet industry was worth $36bn, while in the UK the toy industry was worth £3bn and the pet industry worth £4.9bn.

By contrast, the Irish market for toys was bigger than that for pets, meaning there was room for the sector to grow. The Irish pet market is expected to be worth more than €200m this year.