Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Stepping up pet wash sales

Follow these six steps to put your best foot forward for first-timer users and regular customers.

April 25, 2013

For business owners, the best new ideas are the ones that will put an operation at the forefront of a potential patron’s mind. A bright location, a friendly staff or a unique service — all can improve a person’s impression and recall of a specific business. One attention-grabbing service in the car care industry is self-serve pet washing. While pet washes do not push the same profits as a tunnel or automatic wash, they can be called upon by a stagnant business to bring in new visitors and encourage repeat customers.

From placement to additional products, the most important goal should be pleasing new customers that are brought in by the pet wash. Various marketing ideas can ensure a frequent stream of pet wash users, and remembering the simple upkeep tasks can help operators sell the service and improve sales in other areas. Below, you will find six essential steps for pet wash success from carwash operators and suppliers.

Step 1: Ponder the placement

Finding the proper site placement can be a challenge for pet washes. It is important for a pet wash to be visible, but the activity and traffic on a carwash property can be a concern for customers and their pets.

Glen Titter of Valley Car Wash in Huntingdon Valley, PA, stated that a pet wash should beaway from the hub of carwash activity due to concerns about making the animals nervous. At Valley Car Wash, the pet wash is situated in an outdoor room next to the main entry. This puts it next to the change machine and in plain sight, which is good for security and facility awareness.

“If it were too close to the noise of the vehicles, the carwash equipment and the people traffic, it would make it miserable for the pet owner to keep their animal under control,” Titter said.

Trent Walter, general manager of National Pride Equipment, explained that access should be available to the pet wash without pets and their owners having to cross carwash, gasoline or oil change lines. Giving consideration to the ingress and egress of the site when placing a pet wash is especially important.

Step 2: Upkeep and upkeep

When it comes to upkeep, Walter recommended a daily and weekly/bi-weekly cleaning regimen. Basic cleaning should be done every day including mopping the floor, cleaning up pet hair and washing out the tub. Weekly or bi-weekly tasks should include sanitization using bleach or other disinfectants. Also, the drain traps should be checked and the vacuum or extractor system should be cleaned out.

“People hold their pets in such high regard,” Walter continued. “They don’t want to go into a facility and use it if it has a distasteful smell or just doesn’t look clean.”

Titter revealed that his daily upkeep schedule consists of:

  • Opening the pet wash;
  • Disinfecting and spraying down the wash area;
  • Cleaning out the strainer;
  • Checking and filling the solutions;
  • Checking all the functions; and
  • Sweeping the area.

Step 3: Sell the service

David Rennie of Rennie’s Auto Spa in Berlin, NJ, said he uses a few different channels for marketing his pet wash. One format is dinner advertising in nearby restaurants. Also, he places brochures in specialty, boutique-style dog supply and feed stores. Finally, he schedules general advertisements that always include a picture of the pet wash.

One of the most successful sites that Walter’s company deals with markets the service using newspaper advertisements. The business passes out free tokens at the local ASPCA and kennels and runs frequent special offers as well.

“I market my pet wash on my message rotating LED sign, in a highlighted section alongside every one of my carwash advertisements, as well as signs around and in my carwash to create the ‘what is a pet wash’ inquiry so we can show and/or demonstrate it,” Titter revealed.

In fact, educating current customers is a great marketing idea. After Titter makes his carwash customers aware of the pet wash, he will give them a tour of the pet wash, if possible. He frequently gives carwash customers a free pet wash token so they can then try it out for the first time at their convenience.

Step 4: Put together packages

Another way to promote all the services on a single property is by creating package offerings. Some businesses will include pet wash services as part of a deluxe carwash package. Here, the customers view the combination offering as both a value and a time saver because they can clean their vehicle and pet at one location for a single price.

V.I.P. and loyalty cards can be used to promote different services on multi-profit locations as well. One example would be a customer who comes in for an oil change that also receives a discount for a pet wash, Walter said. Also, some locations that include a Laundromat use tokens that will work in the washers, dryers and the pet wash. Some offer $25 worth of wash tokens for $20 to promote the site’s different token-use services.

Placing a vehicle vacuum near the pet wash and bundling the two services could be another smart package idea. Rennie stated that customers have a “natural inclination” to vacuum the dog hair out of their car after washing a dog. “We see it all the time,” he said. “I would surely incorporate a vacuum machine in and around the pad site for the pet wash.”

Step 5: Add vending products

To maximize profits, many owners add pet-friendly products to their vending machines. Titter offers terry cloth towels and folding brushes at his location. Other products that could be placed in vending machines are dog treats, scarves and bandanas, nail clippers and collars.

Dog treats are definitely a good idea, Walter agreed. “You’re trying to make the operator’s experience as pleasant as possible,” he said. “If you can sell almost like a giveaway item or even have treats available there that people can … give to their dogs, it kind of calms them down a little bit. It’s more of a pleasant experience for the owner of the pet. That’s beneficial.”

One mistake that a lot of pet wash owners make is selecting a towel for vending that is too small, according to Walter. Even if a customer is washing a medium-sized 30 to 40 pound animal, the small 12-inch by 12-inch towels will not be large enough for drying. Thus, he recommended selecting the largest towel that would fit in a vendor.

A few more pet-wash friendly vending products Walter suggested included:

  • Dental bones;
  • Chew toys;
  • Aprons; and
  • Latex gloves.

Step 6: Contact the police

Finally, Walter stated that a lot of pet wash sites in bigger cities have approached their local sheriffs and police departments to work with their K9 divisions. These K9 officers generally receive per diems to clean their dogs every month.

“You wouldn’t think that’s a lot of revenue,” Walter said. “But if you’re in a city of 40,000 or 50,000 people, they may have multiple K9 units. So we see a lot of people kind of targeting that [market].”

If, for example, the department provides the officer with $40 for grooming, at many self-serve pet washes, they could be washed for $10. This would leave the officer with $30 for other needs.

“Pet washing is a very value-added business. It can really bring other people to your site that normally wouldn’t come there,” Walter concluded. “I always stress a lot to my customers: What are you doing to differentiate your location from somebody else’s? How are you making it different? What is that extra value that they see in coming there? And pet washing can be that.”