At least sixty-eight percent of U.S. households currently own a pet — about 85 million families. Consumers love their pets and aren’t afraid to spoil them. In a recent Washington Post survey, 76% of millennials said they are more likely to splurge on their pets than themselves. Pet expenditures represent almost $70 BILLION this year (a three-fold increase since 1996). With this in mind. it’s a good idea for your small business to capitalize on the paw economy.
Even if your business isn’t related to the pet care industry, it’s simple to shift to a more “pet friendly” mindset. Small changes (many of which are virtually free) can send a clear signal to potential customers and employees that you care about their “fur babies” as much as they do.
1. Place a dog bowl in front of your storefront
If you’ve got a storefront, place an elevated stainless steel dog bowl just outside your door. Make sure it’s always filled with clean, fresh water. This small gesture will be a welcome oasis for pets and pet parents alike. Walkers-by will appreciate the break for their dogs, and (bonus!) will spend time scoping out your business while their pups rehydrate.
2. Create a fully-stocked doggy waiting area
If you can’t invite dogs into your business, provide a shaded spot near the water bowl for dogs to rest. In addition to a post for owners to tie their dog to, include a few toys, some clean-up bags, and a comfortable spot to lie down. Hang a sign that says something such as, “We would love to meet your pups, but the health department says they can’t come inside unless they’re service animals. We hope they enjoy a break in the shade while you’re inside.”
3. Add a treat jar to your counter or drive-thru
Adding a treat jar to your counter is a low-cost way to remind customers you care about their four-legged friends. If dogs are welcome in your business, always ask for permission before giving a dog a treat. The jar is a fun take-away for customers to grab a treat on the go if dogs aren’t allowed inside. If you have a drive-thru, be sure to keep another treat jar nearby for when dogs are in the car. Pretty soon, pups will be begging to accompany their parents to your business.
4. Throw a “Dog Days” or other pup-friendly marketing event
The days of summer can be a great time to throw a dog-days-themed marketing event for your small business. Even if pooches aren’t normally allowed in your business, consider making a one-day exception so customers can shop with their companion animals. You might consider offering fun promotions like 20% off one item with a dog present. Create a branded giveaway (like a dog-friendly Frisbee, leash or chew toy) to offer as a gift with purchase. Get neighboring small-business owners in on the day to make it a block party. You might even want to partner with a local shelter and donate a percentage of proceeds to helping adoptable pets find homes.
5. Consider “paw-ternity” leave or other perks for pet parents
Did you know some companies offer two or more days of “paw-ternity” leave for employees who adopt new cats or dogs? This gesture acknowledges four-legged family members can be quite disruptive to the status quo during their first days at home. If days off aren’t doable, check out these other great suggestions of what businesses are doing to make pet parenthood easier for their employees, from bring-your-dog-to-work days to stipends for dog daycare.