Bring in the green and stop seeing red this season

 STORY BY PAMELA MITCHELL 

The holiday season brings joy and happiness. It also offers opportunities for pet businesses to boost sales and brand awareness. For the best ideas on how to do exactly that, we turned to some of the most successful owners we know: members of the Pets+ Brain Squad and winners of our America’s Coolest Stores contest.

They shared tips on prepping for the holidays, examples of DIY marketing via social media, and details of events that attract customers. We also rounded up gifts you can add to purchases, items that show your gratitude and promote your business.

Happy holiday shopping season!


 

 

Events

Celebrate the holidays with your customers and their pets.

The holiday to-do list is long, with people and their pets not spending as much time together as they’d like during this busy time. Invite them to celebrate together at a seasonal event.

 

12 STRAYS OF CHRISTMAS AT BUBBLY PAWS

Twelve rescue cats and dogs find their forever homes during the holidays thanks to this social media campaign. Co-presented by Bubbly Paws and four other local stores, it raises funds for the participating rescue org, which in 2016 was Secondhand Hounds. As to the financial benefits of the event, co-owner Keith Miller says, “I’m sure it brought in new customers and boosted sales, but honestly that’s not why we did it. It really was to use the power of our social media for good, and teaming up with other businesses made it even bigger!”

 

VIP PARTY & SALE AT DOG KRAZY

In 2015, Dog Krazy owner Nancy Guinn invited her 25 best customers to a private post-holidays event with deep discounts and catered food. She sold nearly $10,000 in less than two hours. The party moved to the spring in 2016 and happened at her then two stores, bringing in more than $18,000 combined. Now with four stores, Guinn will move the party back to the holiday shopping season and invite all of her customers, with top spenders getting a special surprise. In addition to boosting sales and thanking shoppers, she points out another benefit of the party: It makes end-of-the-year inventory much easier.

THANKSGIVING PARADE AND COSTUME CONTEST AT HARBOR PET

Pups put on their Turkey Day best to parade through town, with the route ending at Harbor Pet for an awards ceremony featuring prizes, giveaways, and treats from in-house baker Life Is Grruff. The $10 entry fee goes to a local animal-welfare organization, and store co-owner Kim Loper asks neighboring businesses to provide judges, both of which result in cross-promotion of the event.

 

HOLIDAY PARTY WITH LUXE DOG NANNY AT HENRI BENDEL

Those who provide pet concierge and sitting services must get creative with events, as they often don’t have a physical location. To gather her clients, dog nanny Julianne DeChaump partners with local brick-and-mortar businesses that have a matching brand, such as for her upcoming red-carpet party at luxury accessories store Henri Bendel. “We have similar customers, ones who would spend $60 on a monogrammed leather poop-bag holder,” she says, referring to one of the items in the HB pet line. The party benefits both brands, as they expand their access to those who splurge on pets.

 

HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE AT FUR BABY BOUTIQUE

A holiday open house allows owner Sherry Shupe to show off the many offerings at Fur Baby Boutique. Staff welcomes dogs for group play and training in the daycare area. Pawdicures and holiday grooming tips are available in the spa. And pet product reps set up in the retail area to provide food and treat samples. There are also door prizes, and each attendee gets a tote filled with service info, store swag and additional samples with coupons.

Sales soar during the event, but Shupe says, “What we’re really looking for is establishing relationships with new customers and interacting more intimately with our current customers.”

 

HOLIDAY PARTY WITH LUXE DOG NANNY AT HENRI BENDEL

Those who provide pet concierge and sitting services must get creative with events, as they often don’t have a physical location. To gather her clients, dog nanny Julianne DeChaump partners with local brick-and-mortar businesses that have a matching brand, such as for her upcoming red-carpet party at luxury accessories store Henri Bendel. “We have similar customers, ones who would spend $60 on a monogrammed leather poop-bag holder,” she says, referring to one of the items in the HB pet line. The party benefits both brands, as they expand their access to those who splurge on pets.

 

PHOTOS WITH SANTA

Since most malls don’t let animals sit on Santa’s lap, pet stores fill the need for these keepsake photos. Many partner with a local animal-rescue organization, which provides the Kris Kringle as well as additional volunteers. For a donation, pet parents get a print or digital pic, or both. Stores see an increase in foot traffic from regulars and newcomers alike.

“These events are to benefit shelter dogs and customers first,” says Ron Keller, owner of Captivating Canines in Westerville, OH, “ but I get good exposure and excellent sales, too.”

 


 

Customer Gifts

Deck the shopping bags of your best customers.

The holidays are a perfect time to thank customers for their business. Give these gifts with a set minimum purchase. All but the dog bandanas are customizable with your business name, logo and other info.

1. PET PHOTO ORNAMENT

A Christmas tree isn’t complete without photo ornaments featuring the family pets. Choose from a white snowflake or red, green or white wreaths by Animals Ink — or offer multiple styles and let shoppers pick their favorite.

PRICE: From $1.31

animalsink.com

2. POOP BAG DISPENSER WITH LIGHT

Picking up poop at night can be a challenge. Help your customers always be responsible dog owners with this lighted dispenser from Pinnacle Promotions. It holds 25 bags, twists on and off, and has a carabiner for easy attachment to a leash.

PRICE: From $2.43 | pinnaclepromotions.com 

 

3. PET BANDANA

How cute are these bandanas by Petedge? The Peppermint Twist pattern features holiday sweets such as gingerbread men and candy canes, and Holiday Bones alternates paw and bone shapes. The bandanas measure 19 inches by 19 inches, fitting large dogs as is and smaller pets when folded.

PRICE: $2.49 | petedge.com 

 

4. DOG STROBE REFLECTOR TAG

Help keep your favorite canine customers safe with this bone-shaped tag from petandvetpromotions.com that does double duty: It reflects light when off and strobes when on. Talk about a walking billboard for your business!

PRICE: From $1.74 | petandvetpromotions.com

 

5. HOLIDAY CARD

These holiday cards are available with stock photos, or Animals Ink can use pics of your store pets in the design. Available in a variety of shapes and styles — groomers, check out the spa version! — they let customers know you’re thinking of them.

PRICE: From 36 cents | animalsink.com

 

6. KITTY BOINKS

Because cats aren’t immune to holiday weight gain, these Kitty Boinks from Promopet encourage play when sent soaring into the air. Color options are lime, red, hot pink, aqua, neon orange and an assortment of all.

PRICE: From 75 cents | promopet.com

 

7. PET BLANKET

A splurge for your best customers, the 50-inch-by-60 inch fleece blanket by Identitylinks comes in 12 colors — opt for green to match the season — and with promotional embroidery at a corner.

PRICE: From $8.15 | identity-links.com

 


 

 

Holiday Prep

Deck the shopping bags of your best customers.

Did you start preparing for the holiday shopping season months ago? Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas, TX, did. “I start ordering holiday stuff in the summer, usually at SuperZoo,” she says. “We start prepping for Halloween in July, as we have a big Halloween event. Right after Halloween, we set up Christmas. So, Christmas stock has to be in the store before the end of October.”

If you aren’t as far along as Redwine, not to worry. Your fellow pet business owners offer these tips to help get you there. Even if you feel fully prepared, give them a read, as you might learn a different way of doing things or discover an idea that can benefit your operation.

 

HAUL OUT THE HOLLY

Before decorating her store for the holidays, Patricia Boden of The Animal Connection in Charlottesville, VA, looks at photos from last year’s setup. “We have pictures of the store as it was fully stocked with holiday merchandise,” she says, “so we are able to review our decoration ideas and how we set up special toys, treats and accessories.” Boden also uses the photos to remind her where products that sold well were placed.

 

ASSESS STAFFING

Ask staff now for holiday bandwidth and vacation requests. That way, you can make seasonal hires quickly to ensure proper training and plenty of coverage. Post preliminary staff schedules ASAP.

 

STOCK UP ON SUPPLIES

Do you have store supplies to see you through the holiday season? Make sure you have enough of everything, and then some.

 

REMIND CUSTOMERS

Grooming and pet boarding/sitting appointments are in high demand during the holidays. Remind customers via email, social media and/or in person to book now. Be sure to communicate any higher holiday rates.

 

BRING IN THE TREATS

Ellyn Suga, owner of Shop Dog Boutique in Sioux Falls, SD, understands the importance of keeping both her customers and employees fueled during the hectic holiday season. She offers shoppers free freshly brewed coffee on Saturdays, and her employees need not go far when they need a boost.

 

GATHER YOUR EMPLOYEES

Josh and Holly Allen, owners of two Dee-O-Gee stores in Bozeman, MT, hold a pre-holidays staff meeting to “communicate any new ideas/products” and to “build each other up, knowing we’re walking into a really busy time of the year.”

 

PLAN YOUR PLAYLIST

“In-store holiday music equals increased holiday sales,” Dee-O-Gee’s Josh Allen says. Shop Dog Boutique’s Ellyn Suga adds, “Best Pandora holiday station ever: Otis Redding Holiday.”

 

GET YOUR OWN HOLIDAY SHOPPING DONE NOW

It may be the last thing you want to think about now, but make it the first to save your sanity in the coming weeks.

 


 

Be Social

Deck the shopping bags of your best customers.

Did you startSocial media allows you to reach customers for no other cost than your time. Be efficient and effective by setting a social media schedule for the coming weeks. Plan what you will share and when, using scheduled posts within a platform or through a paid tool such as Hootsuite to get ahead. Using Facebook? Be sure to mine the data in your Pages Manager to know when your followers are most active, and then schedule accordingly.

Birds Unlimited

Wish your customers a happy holiday with an image that reflects their pet, such as this sentiment from Birds Unlimited in Rochester, NY. Posts featuring less common pets, such as birds, will be highly sharable among those owners.

 

DEE-O-GEE

Dee-O-Gee in Bozeman, MT, combined product samples/sales with holiday treats in its Dog Nog Lattes. Follow the store’s lead by suggesting fans tag friends who would also enjoy such a freebie.

 

JUNGLE BOB'S

Post your holiday hours, emphasizing Christmas Eve to grab any last-minute shoppers. A cute pic of a pet in a holiday costume, such as this one of a monitor lizard from Jungle Bob’s Reptile World in Selden, NY, also will encourage sharing.

 

URBAN SOPHISTICATS

Who doesn’t love to see the dignified feline look a little silly in a holiday hat? Urban Sophisticats in Littleton, CO, touted its holiday sale with photos of exactly that.

 

SHOP DOG BOUTIQUE

Shop Dog Boutique in Sioux Falls, SD, boosted page and post likes while engaging customers with this “Naughty or Nice” holiday contest. It also encouraged fans to visit the store’s Facebook page again to find out which pups won.

 

 

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