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People throughout the country are suspending home expansion projects, vacation homes are being sold and employee perks are being cut from budgets, so why is one man saying it’s a good idea to add on a pet washing station to a carwash? The answer is simple: Because, despite a weakened economy in 2008, $43.2 billion was spent on pets in 2008 and is expected to reach $45.4 billion in 2009. That’s a lot of money and fortunately, not a lot of money is needed for a pet wash.
Erik MacPherson, president of TMC Pet Vending Solutions of St. Pete Beach, FL, a supplier of coin operated self-serve dog wash equipment, said, “If you look at the pet industry as a whole you see that it’s a billion dollar industry and pet spending continues to rise. People love their pets. Dogs are a family member to them.”
There is a huge demand for an affordable and easy way to wash and dry a dog, he added, and said that self-serve dog washes are opening up everywhere.
ROI is nothing to wag a tail at
Macpherson said that on average, a new pet washing station would cost about $25,000, and that includes everything but the enclosure. The enclosure will cost between $8,000 and $20,000, depending on the wash’s location and climate.
Macpherson said that most clients start out with one station and leave room for another one if there is a need.
Once installed, and if you do everything right, from the marketing to the networking to getting them in the door, you should make your money back in well under a year.
“My clients continue to see an increase in pet wash visits,” MacPherson said. “It’s in need and demand and word-of-mouth is spreading.”
Cheaper than a groomer
One way the shaky economy could benefit a pet wash owner is by letting customers know that washing a dog at a self-serve bay is a lot cheaper than going to a groomer. A basic wash and dry at a professional groomer’s can cost between $15 to $60 depending on the size of the dog, where as at a self-serve pet wash, it can be well under $10.
“Because the economy is the way it is, people are cutting back on the amount of visits to the groomers which costs three to four times more than doing it themselves,” Macpherson said.
“My whole thing is take a look at the pet industry — it’s not the carwash industry. We all know the carwash industry is seeing a decline because of the recession. But, by adding a dog wash, with the P.R. in exposure you get in adding one, your carwash will benefit no matter what.”
Getting them in the door
Other than pulling them away from the groomers, the challenge in getting more customers isn’t necessarily in convincing people to visit the pet wash, but more in letting them know that it exists. As Macpherson put it, the pet wash will sell itself.
“Dog owners already know it’s a pain to wash their dogs inside the house,” he said. “They can’t stand doing it at the house, the clean-up process is a mess, they waste shampoo and water, clog the drains and it’s just such a hassle. The challenge that any carwash faces, is getting the pet traffic to the carwash. To let them know that it even exists.”
Macpherson said that in order to succeed, the pet wash owner has to become a part of the pet community. “The way to market it is by having a big ‘grand opening’ promoting it; bringing in local vet clinics; and/or humane societies.”
Go the humane way
Macpherson particularly recommends teaming with the humane society because usually pet owners have a soft spot in their hearts for homeless or special-needs pets.
“Especially when dog owners know you’re giving back to the humane society and the animal shelters they are even that much happier to spend $10, $12 or $15 on a dog wash and at an event where they can bring the whole family.”
Take it a step further, Macpherson said, and meet with the director of the humane society and give them free tokens that they can give to anyone who adopts a dog. The humane society is always looking to raise money and they could do a dog wash fundraiser at your location and you could donate the proceeds to the humane society. “Events like that,” he said, “do wonders.”
The eco-friendly push
Like a professional carwash, the self-serve pet wash is also friendlier to the environment. Their eco-friendliness could also be used in marketing campaigns and as a way to attract more customers.
“They don’t waste water. It’s the exact opposite,” said Macpherson. “It’s a win-win, for the environment and for the dogs because you’re conserving water and using naturally green products.”
Macpherson said an average self-serve pet wash uses about 2 gallons of water per minute. On average a wash takes about four to five minutes, which means a pet wash uses about 10 gallons of water. According to Consumer Reports magazine, the average household shower uses about 12 gallons of water.
“If you’re washing a dog in the house, a bathtub could be running the entire time. Or if you’re washing with the hose, the water could be running and you’re using a lot more water,” Macpherson said. “And furthermore, since all of the shampoos are naturally green, they’re not harming the environment either.”