Pets Retail Franchising – June Feature Article

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The Best Things About Pets and Franchising

We love our pets and will often spend vast amounts of money on them (probably more than we’d like to admit), but if you’re entrepreneurial-minded, you can make money from pets.

From waste removal to custom-made paw print jewelry, pet franchises hold a lot of opportunity for anyone who loves working with animals.

Well over half of all households in the US own a pet. According to numbers from Franchising Help, 68 percent of US households own a pet, which means there are pets in about 82.5 million households across the country.

While fish are the most popular pets in America, followed by cats, dogs, birds, and reptiles, in that order, the lion’s share of the franchising opportunities are geared toward dogs, which cost, on average, $1,648 per year to care for.

The best thing about pet franchises is that many of them require only a small amount of startup capital and you don’t need an extensive amount of knowledge about animals to get involved with them (although it will help if you have a genuine love for animals).

The pet industry was worth $55.53 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow annually by 4.4 percent right through 2016. It can be broken down into products and services. The services are often in the form of training, care, grooming, waste removal and disposal, boarding and other similar services. Pet products include items like food, toys, beds and housing and anything else that you purchase for your pets. While many pet franchises are run out of people’s homes or are highly mobile, pet stores and other similar franchises will require a location.

Categories of Pet Franchises

The Franchise Direct Pet Industry Report breaks down the pet industry into seven categories.

Pet sitting and dog walking

Pet sitters are responsible for looking after pets while their owners are away. This may include playing with the pets, taking them outside for activity, feeding them, administering medication and removing waste. The service will last for as long as the client is away and may include other duties outside of pet care like watering plants and bringing in mail. Dog walking is a bit more specific and may just entail going to a residence and picking up a dog and walking it for a set amount of time.

Dog training

Dog training requires skill and patience, as well as a love for dogs. And, of course, dog trainers will need to be trained themselves. Dog trainers must also train dog owners to be able to carry on with the behavioral training once they themselves are finished with the dog.

Pet grooming

Pet groomers make pets look good. This often includes brushing and washing, but can go well beyond that into manicures, ear cleaning, mouth/teeth cleaning and fur clipping. A pet groomer may also sell products to people to help them keep their pets looking good.

Retail pet shops

These can cater to a few specific types of pets or the full spectrum of critters. They can sell basic food and supplies or more luxury items and can either be run as an online store or from a physical location. (Online stores will still require a physical location.)

Pet waste removal services

These are largely about ridding yards of dog droppings, but they can also involve emptying car litter boxes or providing other types of pet waste removal.

Pet photography

Self-explanatory, many pet photography services have a mobile studio so that they can come to the customer rather than having the customer bring their pet to them. They will often set up shop near a grooming service so they can catch pets looking their best.

Veterinary services

These are medical operations and require specialized education and training.

Pet industry growth

As mentioned previously, the majority of households in the U.S. own at least one pet. On top of that, the American Pet Products Association found in a national survey that the number of households owning pets grew by 38 percent in the decade 1998 – 2008, meaning that the pet-owning population outpaced the general population of the US in that time period.

This uptick in the number of households owning pets can be explained by the fact that more people are concentrating on their careers and putting off having children until later in life. Pets are filling this emotional void for people as they stave off having kids. In addition to that, the retiring baby boomer generation is buying pets to fill the void of the children who have grown up and left the home.

“The strong growth in the [pet-care] industry demonstrates what an important role pets are playing in the lives of Americans,” Bob Vetere, American Pet Products Manufacturers Association COO and Managing Director, said. “They have become a part of the family. Spending across all sectors, from pet food and veterinarian care to toys and treats, reflects what lengths we are willing to go to for our pets.”

Pet pampering

This altered role for pets — that of filling the emotional void of children — has led to pet owners becoming more akin to pet parents. And pet parents like to spend lavishly on their pets if they can.

The old blanket in the corner has been replaced by faux mink dog blankets and wool or cotton dog coverings have given way to cashmere sweaters. You can now get hammocks, wedding dresses, tuxedos, sports jerseys jewelry and Halloween costumes for pets.

Easily recognizable brands are cashing in on people’s penchant for pampering their pets. Harley-Davidson, for one, knows that its customers are fiercely brand loyal and it now has a range of pet products with its logo that sell at appropriately marked-up prices.

Aging and obese pets

With the constant pet pampering, pets are also living longer, which means they are experiencing more health problems later in life. This means more spending on over-the-counter medication for them, as people treat their ailing pets rather than just putting them down, which was the usual course of action decades ago.

Sometimes people can get a little carried away with the pampering, though, which has also lead to a rise in obese pets, particularly cats and dogs. The problem is so bad that there is now an organization dedicated to combating it. According to a 2013 survey performed by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 57 percent of cats are either overweight or obese and 53 percent of dogs are either overweight or obese.

This misfortune for pets has turned the specialty pet food market and over-the-counter pet medicine into a lucrative and growing market, though. Pet parents spent $4.1 billion on organic and natural pet foods last year according to market research firm Packaged Facts. This particular sector of the pet food industry has seen a compound annual growth of 17 percent over the last four years.

Specialty foods

Some specialty pet foods don’t even have to do with health, though. Sometimes, the pet parents just have a preference for certain foods that fit in with their lifestyle and they want their pets to follow suit.

An estimated two million cats and dogs are fed kosher pet food, while another four million felines and canines are fed vegetarian pet food. And even tap water isn’t good enough for some people’s pets, as about two million dogs and cats drink flavored water and eight million are given bottled water to drink.

Needless to say, the specialty pet food sector is another area of growth in the pet franchising market.

Pet insurance

Another market that continues to grow thanks to pets living longer is pet health insurance. Again, this is such a large growth area that an association has sprung up for it. According to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), over one million pets are insured, with annual premiums across the industry between $475 and $500 million.Using the NAPHIA numbers, Embrace Pet Insurance reports that these annual premiums grew at a compounded rate of 13 percent between 2008 and 2012.

If all of this talk of growth hasn’t convinced you yet that the pet industry is worth getting into, Inc. magazine named pet care as one of the best industries to enter in May 2012. That’s a pretty good endorsement for the industry.

Getting Started

But, where do you fit in?

Deciding to open a pet franchise will involve asking yourself some important questions.

  • Do you want hands-on involvement with animals or would you rather be related more with the sales side of things?
  • Would you like to take advantage of the lower startup costs of a mobile pet service business (and the accompanying lower earnings potential) or are you willing to take the risk of opening up a more permanent business (and reaping the increased earning potential that comes with it)?
  • Can you procure the funding necessary to start a franchise?

You’ll need to do research about the market in your area to find what service pets retail feature isn’t being offered or what service there is a demand for that isn’t being met by current businesses in the area.

Some franchisors will help out with initial funding, usually in the form of a loan for a partial amount of the startup costs. All franchisors will offer some form of training for new franchisees, which will usually include both classroom training and on-the-job training. Often franchisors will pay for your travel and accommodation expenses for training purposes.

Researching potential franchisors is just as important as researching the market in your area. Make sure that the franchisor offers sufficient support to its franchisees and that it has the marketing and brand recognition power that makes franchising so attractive.

If you have a love of animals and a head for business, opening a franchise in the pet service industry can be a lucrative venture. Pets are more important than ever for people and their pooch pampering can mean mega money for the right person backed by the right franchisor. It’s clear that right now, opening a franchise in the pet industry will have you barking up the right tree.

About the author: A former journalist, Rob Swystun, has been writing professionally since 2006 and now concentrates on freelance writing. He lives in Winnipeg and is currently an Athabasca University student studying for a BA in Communications.