The CCCC factor: Canine Consumers Create Cash

    When my Chow dog was a puppy we spent one very hot summer afternoon awaiting the ferry in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.
   With his enormous fur coat, it wasn’t possible to sit in the car and wait, so we wandered around the shops looking for shade and entertainment. Passing by the shops with “no dog” signs, we were finally welcomed into an upscale clothing boutique. While the friendly owner offered my puppy a bowl of water, I browsed the racks and bought an $80 shirt.
   In Seaside, Or., recently, our dogs were welcomed into a shopping area with a carousel, where my family spent at least $100 in various shops on everything from wallets, to hats, toys and rides on the wooden horses. The dogs were well behaved, sat nicely and people stopped to pet them. The hat store even carried dog visors and encouraged canine customers to try them on.
   When checking into our Cannon Beach hotel, we were given a “doggie kit” that included plastic bags, treats and their dog policy. They had pet- walking areas, a dog bed in the room, dog bowls and an extra sheet in case the dog slept on the people bed. We willingly spend twice as much to stay at this hotel that welcomes our furry family members.
   Many countries welcome dogs into businesses, including restaurants, as a matter of course. It’s a normal thing. The dogs are well behaved because they are socialized that way. Dogs that never go out don’t know how to act when they are finally allowed to go someplace. Americans are unique in their dog discrimination, although things are starting to change.
   According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), there are now more pets in the U.S. than there are children.
   What a huge market is opening up for the entrepreneur! Not just a market for selling things the pets need, but an opportunity to cater to those humans who don’t want to leave their beloved pets home when they shop, dine, get a massage or go to work. While it may not be possible for every business to get in on this popular trend, it’s worth considering for those who can.
   Bellingham won 4th place in Dog Fancy magazine’s “2006 Dog Town USA”, which rates cities according to doggie benefits, including places to do things with your dog. We’re already on the map as dog friendly, the question is, how do we cash in on the canines!
   According to Carline Kinsman, Marketing Manager for Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, “Pet adoration in the retail world is certainly gaining attention, and I agree there is a market to cater to, that is willing to spend moola in the venues who “bow” and “wow” to this audience.”
   In addition, we need to get over our segregation of pets and embrace the fact that they are part of our lives and healthy for us to have!
   The National Center for Disease Control says health benefits from pets include decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels, curing feelings of loneliness, increasing opportunities for exercise and for socializing. So how do we increase the time people can spend with their dogs and still make money? Here are some tips for dealing with dogs at work:
   1)Allow dogs at the office. Dogs go to offices all the time. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, having pets at the workplace creates a more productive work environment, lowers stress, increases morale, decreases employee absenteeism and makes employees more willing to work overtime.
   If you’re not ready to leap into it yet, start by allowing dogs on the fourth Friday in June next year on Take Your Dog to Work Day. Or create your own day and see how it goes. Be sure to set standards of behavior upfront including nixing any show of aggression or misbehavior and requiring the owners to bring toys, food, bowls and cleanup bags. In addition, make sure no one at work is allergic to dogs. Go to www.petsit.com for ideas on a Bring Your Pet to Work Day.
   2)Allow dogs in your store. Lots of stores in Fairhaven not only allow dogs, but offer them treats, as well. Keep a water bowl outside the door. People who shop with their dogs tend to be a higher-income group. When I owned The Doggie Diner, I found that people who brought in little dogs tended to spend more money and treat their pets as their children. If your store is too fragile for big dogs, put out a sign saying “Dogs in arms welcome.”
   3)Allow dogs in your service business. While socializing my Chow puppy, I brought him to my massage appointments. He got a treat and slept contentedly on the floor.
   My accountant loves my pugs’ annual visits to her office. Village Books doesn’t mind doggie visitors, and the banks always have treats at the drive through. If it’s possible, find a way to welcome these pets, thereby welcoming their owner’s money, as well.
   4)Allow dogs in outside dining areas. On the same hot summer trip to San Juan Island, I asked to sit outside at Roche Harbor with my puppy and eat. I was told to tie him to a fence away from the restaurant. Not willing to do this, I went elsewhere. If possible, allow dogs in outdoor seating areas of your café. Offer the dog a bowl of water, and perhaps even a homemade biscuit.
   People will appreciate the effort and visit you again.

Taimi Dunn Gorman is former owner of The Colophon Cafe and the Doggie Diner and currently runs Gorman Publicity, a marketing and publicity firm. She may be reached through gormanpublicity.com

 

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