We’re big on pets; in fact assortment in our two households alone could form a small petting zoo. Between us, we’ve adopted three dogs (that's Sid, Georganne's chihuahua, and frequent office visitor) three cats, a couple of fish, a horse, and several rats. And except for the horse that lives at a riding center, each of our four-legged friends eats and sleeps indoors in one of our respective homes. Even the rats, the subject of an 8th grade science project, are an important part of the family. Don’t laugh, rats make excellent pets, we even had one that came when we called him. He’d play catch when you tossed him a rat-sized ball, and even enjoyed watching TV George’s kids.
We’re not unique; lots of people consider their pets as much a part of the family as the humans in the household. Today, dogs and cats spend their days at expensive pet day care centers, so they won’t be lonely while mommy and daddy are at work. These people would never consider leaving Spot at a kennel when they travel when he’d be far more comfortable at one of those five star pet palaces that are popping up all over the country. You might have to choose Motel 6 so your cat can stay at a luxury pet spa, but you’ll sleep better knowing she’s in good hands.
Some people openly refer to their pets as “the kids”. So is it any wonder that a recent study revealed that the average woman spends more time choosing holiday gift for her pet than for her husband? All of this fuss over pets may come as a surprise to you but it’s business as usual to retailers like Petco and Pet Smart; big box stores that cater to those of us who cater to family members with fins, fur and feathers. When we were kids pet stores were smelly, dark, and dirty. Not anymore, these spotless showplaces that are merchandised to perfection. And to encourage impulse sales.
In our travels we’ve met many retailers whose pets have become just another member of the store team. Instead of aprons, some even wear bandannas and their own name tags. We’ve met several retailers whose dogs “write” the store’s blog, Facebook posts and e-mail blasts. We know that for each pet event we share in a seminar, we’ll hear from at least two more retailers who have pet events of their own to tell about. Here are few of our favorites:
Santa Paws Day: Santa Claus visits lots of stores at Christmas time, but Randy Husk, owner of the Ace Hardware Store in Rock Springs, Wyoming wanted to do something a little bit different, so he came up with “Santa Paws Day”.
On Santa Paws Day, instead of their kids, customers to bring their pets to the store for a visit with Santa. $5.00 buys them a photo of their pet sitting on Santa’s lap. Randy donates one dollar out of the five to a local animal shelter.
It’s quite a sight to see! Dogs and cats and customers patiently waiting their turn to visit Santa but that’s not all. As the big guy in the red suit, Randy’s held many a creature: dogs, cats, fish, mice, ferrets, lizards, rats, rabbits, snakes – you name it, but he had to set up some ground rules the year a customer brought in a 350 pound Vietnamese pot-bellied pig, and tried to hoist it onto Randy’s lap!
The Pet Psychic: We met Polly McFadden, owner of The Stamp Act in El Paso, Texas, at one of CHA’s $1.99-an-Idea Luncheons. Polly had heard customers discussing Animal Planet’s TV show The Pet Psychic. You’ve no doubt seen this show; it features Sonja Fitzpatrick, a psychic whose telepathic abilities enable her to communicate with animals. Polly’s customers’ enthusiasm over this program inspired her to come up with an animal communication event if her own.
Polly’s event was hosted by her dog, Chloe. In addition to the pet psychic, Chloe also had a palm reader on hand to entertain her human guests. Customers paid $15.00 each for a visit with the pet psychic, $5 of which went to a local animal shelter. The day of the event, both man and beast were lined up outside the store even before it opened. Once inside, they wound in and around the aisles. Polly’s traffic-building event quickly became a sales-building event as customers’ redeemed the coupons they were given to buy supplies to commemorate the day they found out what Fido was really thinking.
Bring Bubba a Bone: A Wisconsin garden center retailer named Bob told us he was bored with the usual events he ran each year in his nursery and gift shop. He wanted to shake things up in the store and create a buzz about town. One day while sitting at his desk, struggling to come up with a fresh idea, he happened to look down at his dog, Bubba, who was fast asleep at his feet. That’s when it hit him: customers come to the store just to visit Bubba, so why not give him an event of his own?
“Bring Bubba a Bone” was genius in its simplicity. Customers’ who brought Bubba a bone on the day of the sale received special discounts that varied from department to department. Bob seriously under-estimated Bubba’s celebrity; he thought the dog would get a handful of bones, and he’d have a few laughs with customers. Wrong. Bubba received 427 bones that day, and the event was a huge success. Bob was so pleased with the turn out, that he’s seriously considering renaming next year’s event “Bring Bob a Beer”!
You can host pet events in your store, even if you do not specifically sell pet supplies. Why not tap into this potential new customer market this summer? Pet events are low cost and easy to put together – use bag stuffers, e-mail blasts and in-store signing to advertise your event. Take advantage of "World of Mouth" on Facebook, Twitter, and other social medias. Send out press releases to alert the media. It’s a proven fact that pet owners spend piles of money each year on their furry friends – why shouldn’t they spend some of that money in your store?
© KIZER & BENDER . All Rights Reserved