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The keys to doggone success

November 25, 2013
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If you have — or are thinking of adding on — a pet wash, you should know that wintertime is a busy time for this additional profit center. Why? Because when it’s cold out, people have trouble washes their dogs outside. And, according to Trent Walter, general manager of National Pride Equipment, and the newly acquired Car Wash Superstore, pet washes are continuing to gain in popularity because the pet industry is huge right now. According to the American Pet Products Association, the pet industry in the United States is worth about $55.5 billion.

Pet washes and carwash multi-profit centers are also popular because people appreciate the convenience of the one-stop shop. “Pet washes work because they keep people coming to your carwash because it can save them a trip if they are looking to clean their car and clean their pet in one visit,” stated Walter.

Owning a pet wash, according to Walter, can be easy in that it doesn’t take too much maintenance, but the maintenance it does require needs to be followed faithfully. The following are tips for success provided by Walter to make sure your pet wash is running in tip top shape to keep your customers, and their pets, happy, during this busy time of year.

Tip 1: Clean the floor on a daily basis.

According to Walter, because dogs are getting out of the tub and shaking off the excess water, the water, as well as any loose fur will get all over the floor. This is the number one task you have to perform, he said. “If people come in and they see dog hair, it’s a turn off. Keeping things washed out and mopped.” Check in on the pet wash as often as you can through the day as you want to make sure t

Tip 2: Keep things sanitized.

Implement some sort of weekly or twice-weekly sanitization program, suggested Walter. “Use a product that has got a little bit of fragrance to it and disinfecting features as well. I know of some pet wash owners that even go as far as posting their sanitization schedule in the pet wash so that when the customers come in they see that things were cleaned on such-and-such date.”

Also, Walter said that because people love their pets so much, they want to make sure they’re using a clean facility that looks clean that smells good, or they will walk in and then promptly exit the wash. To help control the odors, Walter also suggested cleaning and scrubbing the tubs regularly.

Tip 3: Check and clean the drain traps.

Weekly or bi-weekly, check and clean them and if you have a vacuum or extractor, clean those out as well, Walter said.

Tip 4: Have plenty of vending machine products available.

Vending products are a great way to make some addition money. According to Walter, the most popular item vended are treats. “You see a lot of treats because when you get the dogs in there, especially if it’s their first time or they’ve only been there a couple of times, they will probably be a little agitated. So the vending treats seem to be a very, very popular sale. I’ve seen people buy the pre-packaged and I’ve even seen people go out and buy regular Milkbones and put them in a drop-shelf vendor and sell them for 25 cents.”

Some other items Walter has seen have been towels to dry the animals. “Probably one of the biggest things I see people doing wrong is they use too small of a towel. They’re going with kind of a standard versus an extra large size.” Walter suggested offering big enough towels and to make sure plenty are on hand as customers will not want a wet dog in their car.

Tip 5: Offer credit card payment machines.

With pet washing, in the beginning, it was predominantly paid for with cash, but now we’re more and more payments by credit card, according to Walter. “It swung to where maybe it was 70/30 five years ago,” he said, “And now we’re seeing it’s 60/40. What’s driving that is the high ticket prices. We’re seeing the per average ticket price in excess of $8 to $10, depending on the location. So people are more willing to just to swipe their credit card.”

Tip 6: Consider an on-demand water heater to save money.

Utility wise, you can’t recycle anything, Walter said. “What we’ve seen is a lot of guys are going to the on-demand water heaters that are tankless. So if you go with a high-efficiency, on-demand, one, there are some benefits there versus putting in a 30-gallon-tank heater, similar to what you have in your house,” advised Walter.

Tip 7: Anticipate a waiting line.

Check on the access in and out of the pet wash, suggested Walter.

“In conjunction with that are parking spots. A lot of people put in one pet wash and will have one parking spot. But if multiple people show up and somebody just wants to sit and wait in their car until they’re done, and you only have one parking spot, you’re not really setting yourself up for success.” Walter suggested having two parking spaces for every unit.

Tip 8: Have ample instructions on display.

Pet washing is still pretty new, therefore a lot of education is needed so that customers aren’t uncomfortable once they’re in the bay with an already-nervous pet, said Walter. “If you go into a self-serve bay now, and you really don’t need instruction signs, people can pretty much look at the rotary switch, see what options are there and move forward,” said Walter. “But, with a pet wash, those instruction signs are very, very important.” Make sure the signs carefully list all of the necessary steps. Show pictures if you can and make sure all of the dials, wands, brushes and dispensers are clearly marked.