Independents still rule
Supported by big investors, consolidators have gobbled up a couple of thousand veterinary practices. NVA, for example, owns more than 600, VetCor over 300, and relative newcomers Southern Veterinary Partners and Compassion-First come in at 79 and 35, respectively. The head counts likely will be higher by the time you read this.
Hearing that your friend, an independent practice owner, sold to a consolidator might make you think that everyone is doing it. Not so.
John Volk of Brakke Consulting estimates that 14 to 15% of U.S. veterinary practices are corporately owned. Matthew Salois, Ph.D., chief economist at the American Veterinary Medical Association, says the number is even lower: 10 to 12%. The discrepancy arises from the lack of a nationwide hospital census, something the AVMA is working to complete. The current thinking is the United States has somewhere between 28,000 and 33,000 veterinary clinics.
“Sure,” you respond, “but what will the market look like when the consolidators and large groups have had their fill?” I’m glad you asked, because I surveyed a few people who know a lot more about the subject than I do.
Here’s what three of them had to say:
- Dr. Salois: “Corporations strategically go to places where they know they can see a return on investment. They are not going to go to all places. There is still a market out there for independent veterinary practices.”
- Money Matters columnist Leslie Mamalis, MBA, MSIT, CVA: “I don’t see private practice ever becoming a thing of the past. … Private veterinarians should take a deep breath and focus on providing quality, professional service.”
- Creative Disruption columnist and WellHaven Pet Health chief medical officer Bob Lester, DVM: “I suspect we have another five to 10 years of strong consolidation in the U.S. veterinary profession. … When the dust settles, I believe the majority of practices will still be independent.”
What do you think? Email me at [email protected].
Ken Niedziela, editor