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Groom for Improvement?

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The K9000
People loves to pamper their dogs. A dog wash may mean new customers and new revenue. (Photo: Courtesy TMC Dog Wash Solutions)

Paul Partyka |

When someone invokes the old saying, “My business is going to the dogs,” you know times are tough. But times may be changing.
“Teaming up” with man’s best friend at your laundry may prove to be a winning experience.PETS AND PROFITS
If you’re looking to tap into an ever-popular trend, it might be time to think about the $41 billion pet industry that continues to grow yearly, says Erik MacPherson, president of TMC Dog Wash Solutions, a company that supplies turnkey dog-wash solutions throughout North America.
   
Most data and research indicate that the pet industry, as a whole, doesn’t suffer much if the U.S. economy lags, MacPherson says. Research also suggests that most pet owners will cut back on other personal luxury items before they cut back on their pet spending, he adds.
The concept is fairly simple: Utilize a fully self-contained unit designed to shampoo, condition, blow-dry and de-flea dogs in as little as 10 minutes. You generate extra revenue by providing the wash of a professional groomer, while offering a convenient, economical and simple way for people to keep their dogs clean.
You may be thinking, “I can’t have dogs walking around my laundry.” MacPherson agrees. He says there are several ways to combine the businesses. Use a different entrance for the dog wash if possible, and partition off the area. You can also create a build-out. For one dog-wash unit, you need a 10-foot by 10-foot space, he says. Lastly, in the right climate and market, he suggests an “open-air” dog wash — leave the equipment outside like a self-serve car wash.
More specifically, one of MacPherson’s popular dog washes, a 700-pound unit, is 84.6 inches wide by 72.8 inches high by 23.6 inches deep. It can connect to existing services (hot/cold water line and drain line) and uses about two gallons of water per minute. A hot-water tank or tankless system can be installed in the cabinet.
Would a dog wash be worth the investment? MacPherson offers the following:

  • Self-service costs are far less expensive than paying for groomers.
  • Self-service washes require less time than home washing, including the cleanup.
  • Time is a valuable commodity. Washing the dog while waiting for your laundry makes sense.
  • Pet owners like a clean dog.

MAKING IT WORK
Whatever extra profit center you select requires marketing.
MacPherson says there are different things an owner can do to maximize the profitability of such a service. Here are a few of his suggestions:

  1. Getting the right equipment — Safety is a consideration. Try to avoid ramps, steps, etc. Look for simplicity of operation.

  2. Know your pricing — Research shows that self-serve dog washing prices are $12 to $20, on average, at traditional storefronts. Price your service in conjunction with the industry.
  3. Shampoos — People are particular about what shampoos they use on their dogs. It pays to use a brand that customers recognize.
  4. Add a secure area around the dog-wash facility — If outside, you can increase your wash count by 30 percent just by installing a small fenced-in area around the wash. If you have multiple washes indoors, separate each wash with a simple partition. Let dog owners know that their furry friend is safe from other dogs.
  5. Get involved in the pet community — The majority of dog-wash customers will not be laundry customers. Let dog owners know about your service. It pays to think as if you’re in the pet industry. (Can you get the dog owners to become laundry customers?)
  6. Use your attendant — Make sure your attendant understands the dog-wash service. You don’t want to lose potential customers due to misinformation.

CRUNCHING NUMBERS
Most “customers” will be medium- or large-sized dogs, he says. The recommended starting wash cycle is 10 minutes for $10, but the average wash cycle is 12-13 minutes, with each additional minute costing $1. The store owner’s average cost per wash (utilities and shampoo) is 90 cents to $1.
Upselling possibilities include vending dog supplies, offering towels to complete the drying process, and selling tokens to encourage long-term usage.
Lastly, MacPherson strongly urges operators to give back to the community by partnering with an area dog shelter and donating a small percentage of the sales to the shelter.

About the author

Paul Partyka

American Coin-Op

Paul Partyka was editor of American Coin-Op from 1997 through May 2011.

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