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Pointers from successful pet washes

Learn secrets from carwash owners that have popular pet wash profit centers.

April 19, 2013
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Pet wash multi-profit centers are a great option for carwash owners looking to add a new revenue generator to existing properties. Further, they are active and effective marketing tools that can catch the attention of numerous potential customers. But, much like carwashing, certain “best practice” steps must be taken to generate appropriate interest in the service.

Who better to pass on tips for success than actual pet wash operators? Keith Caldwell, vice president of All Paws Pet Wash, singled out two successful pet wash owners: Glen Titter of Valley Car Wash in Huntingdon Valley, PA, and David Rennie of Rennie’s Auto Spa in Berlin, NJ. They both provided PC&D their best practices for pet wash success.

Just the facts

Titter said that the most important factors for pet wash success are:

  • A secure location;
  • A comfortable environment;
  • Good lighting;
  • Warm water; and
  • All-in-one equipment.

What about operational hours? “My pet wash is open 24 hours, so I have the lighting on a motion sensor,” Titter revealed. “I have also put up a clear curtain to keep the area warmer than the outside with less heating costs.”

When it comes to the most successful pet wash operations, Rennie singled out high-traffic areas with a heavy draw. Here, the carwash or other ancillary business is important. C-stores and strip centers can be good draws, and for a pet wash to succeed, the business it is coupled with should be visible, well established and have curb appeal.

As far as the on-site location, the best pet wash position would be right in line with traffic entering the facility. Rennie suggested that owners should try to segregate the parking and access to the dog wash. This will prevent customers having to cross over lines or have any potential issues with scared dogs at unfamiliar surroundings. “Rarely is this an issue if planned ahead correctly,” he said.

Paying attention

Due to the nature of pet washing, upkeep and marketing are two of the most important steps for success. Early morning cleanup and preparation is always recommended, Rennie stated. On-site cameras can be used for midday remote monitoring if an operation is busy, and an early evening visit and cleanup may be warranted.

“Marketing is key with advertising and letting traffic know the pet wash is there,” Rennie continued. “The unit must be well run and impeccably clean. [It] requires minimal involvement but you must always be aware of the need to monitor the pet wash.”

Pet washes require dedication, especially since the concept is brand new to many customers, Rennie noted. For new, money-conscious pet wash owners growing their businesses, there are various energy efficiencies that can be explored including light timers, thermostats, etc.

Payment options

With the growing popularity of credit/debit cards, what would be the best method of payment to accept? “Credit/debit cards have become a way of life for many,” Titter said. “I think that more people may use [a pet wash] if it had a credit/debit card feature since many people do not carry cash anymore. If the wash had a credit/debit option on the change machine that could solve it for other options as well.”

Rennie’s operation has not installed a credit card option on their pet wash. Today, credit card sales account for 70 percent of retail gasoline sales and 55 percent of carwash business in the South New Jersey and Philadelphia markets, according to Rennie. Considering this, credit card capabilities could be a huge advantage for a self-serve pet wash over the competition.

However, with tokens, it could be easier to cross promote various services from different profit centers, including carwashes, vacuums, vending and Laundromats. “Simple token dispensing for any wash selected – crediting that token towards the pet wash,” Rennie said. “A location would have to be attended to cross tie in anything immediately at the site. This is overall not very difficult to do however.”

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