Poundstretcher is planning to open 50 standalone Pet Hut stores this year.

The discounter said it was targeting stores between 3,000 sq ft to 5,000 sq ft in high-street locations and that they would offer a “cheaper alternative” to Pets At Home and the supermarkets.

Until now, Poundstretcher has run Pet Hut - which sells petfood and accessories for cats, horses and dogs - purely as a dedicated section within its stores. It said it had been encouraged by positive feedback after introducing Pet Hut to 13 of its larger stores last year.

“After Pets At Home, the nearest competitor is a fraction of the size so there is a massive gap for us in the £1.7bn petfood market,” said financial director Roy Ellis.

As many as 200 Poundstretchers will include a Pet Hut by the end of the year, taking its total store presence to 250 locations.

“With the buying capacity of Crown Crest behind us, we will offer a bigger and better food range than our rivals and at a much cheaper price,” Ellis added.

Market leader Pets At Home is expected to announce plans for a £1.5bn float next month.