DORSET-based chain PamPurredPets is using pioneering face detection technology to gather demographic information about its customers.

Digital screens in its shops display advertising and information at the same time as recording information about the people who look at them.

Although the technology cannot recognise individual customers, it can judge the age and sex of the people who look at the screens, as well as recording the time they viewed the promotions on the screens.

The information can then be analysed to profile the kind of customers visiting at particular times, so advertising can be better targeted.

The technology is provided by Lord Sugar’s company Amscreen.

Managing director Steve Fowler, who founded PamPurredPets in 1981, said the response from customers had been positive.

“The digital screens allow us to display anything that is useful to shoppers including animal care advice and live information such as local traffic, weather, news and Twitter feeds,” he said.

Tesco announced last year that Amscreen was to install similar screens in its 450 petrol stations under a five-year deal.

The innovation was likened then to the film Minority Report – in which Tom Cruise walks through a shopping mall and is bombarded with holographic adverts addressing him by name.

But Charlotte Sturmey, marketing manager at PamPurredPets, stressed the software was collecting broad demographic information rather than personal data.

“It gives us an idea who’s in our stores and what time of day. It also means we can see what they’re looking at,” she said.

PamPurredPets recently announced plans to expand from 47 to 54 branches over two years after securing £250,000 from HSBC. Twenty-two of its outlets are in Dorset and Hampshire.