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Multi-profit Centers

Adding a pet wash

October 11, 2010
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If there are two things people are passionate about, it’s their cars and their pets. Despite the struggling economy, the pet care industry continues to grow every year. People spent $41 billion on their pets in 2007. With all of the ‘buzz’ about adding a self-serve dog wash to a carwash over the past few years, owners are beginning to see the profit potential in pet care.

New standalone units
There are several options for carwash owners looking to add pet washes to their car care businesses. The industry standard has been the waist-high, stainless steel tub. These tubs can be housed in a separate, dedicated building or can be retrofitted into existing bay space.

Recently, a new option has been introduced to the U.S. market. The new models are stand alone units introduced in Europe and Australia over a decade ago. Now there are over 500 units in operation throughout the world today and most of them are located at automatic and self serve carwashes.

Roy Leonard, owner of Lighthouse Car Wash in St. Petersburg, FL, was one of the first operators in the United States to add a standalone pet wash model.

“We’ve increased revenue and added customers. Folks use it all throughout the day into the night,” Leonard said. He installed his dog wash between two vacuums about a year and a half ago.

Although these models differ somewhat in their style and operation, the units typically are constructed of stainless steel. Various options are available like oatmeal based, flea & tick shampoos and conditioners. Non-soap/non-detergent shampoos will not rinse away expensive flea and tick products. The shampoos are all natural and will minimize liability.

Maximizing your investment
No matter what type of pet wash unit you install, you’ll need to consider pricing, placement and marketing. In order to maximize investment in your pet wash, consider these suggestions:
  • Make sure your pricing is competitive. Charging $10 for 12 minutes is a good start, with an additional 50 cent cost per minute after the first cycle. If there are other pet washes in your area, including pet salons, visit them to note their pricing and set yours accordingly. Remember: there is value in convenience — your dog wash is probably open 24/7 and available when the store-fronts are not.

  • Provide a secure area around the dog wash unit. If outside, you can increase your wash count by installing a small fenced-in area around the dog wash. If you have multiple dog wash units indoors, separate each unit with a simple partition. The fencing and partitioning provide a comfort level for the pet owner knowing that their best friend is protected from other dogs and is prevented from slipping away during the bathing process.

  • Adding a pet supply vending machine will increase revenues. Brushes, towels, treats, toys and other impulse items will add another revenue stream to your pet vending profit center. Make sure the pet products you use are safe for dogs and children.

  • Spread the word with press releases, trade magazine and newspaper announcements to promote your dog wash facility in the local media. Offer combination dog/carwash specials to customers. Partner with your local dog rescue non-profit and local school system for dog wash fund raisers. Like any other product, advertising is necessary to bring optimum results.

Erik MacPherson is president of TMC Pet Vending Solutions, St. Pete Beach, FL, a supplier of coin operated self-serve dog wash equipment. He can be reached at or at (727) 742-9699.

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