Increase Your Profits this Howl-O-Ween
By Melanie Haber
How often have you heard pet parents go on and on about the Halloween costumes they are going to create or buy for their pets for Halloween? How many times have you been presented with a picture of a pet in a superhero costume or princess outfit to have hung proudly on your wall? Some costumes are conservative and others are simply over-the-top! Over the years, I have seen dogs dressed up as superman, “Dog Marley,” cowboys, land sharks and more. Crazy costumes aren’t only for our canine friends either. I’ve seen a live chicken put into a bucket with a bandana labeled “finger lickin’ good,” another chicken with a t-shirt that said “Hot Chick,” an iguana dressed up like Robin Hood and a goat in a tutu and I LOVED IT!
The obsession with pets and costumes keeps getting bigger and bigger every year. This is not surprising considering the increase in the human/pet bond. More and more four-legged family members (or two-legged in the case of the chickens) are being included in all the yearly holiday celebrations. In fact, pets as part of our holiday celebrations are not unique, they are expected.
So, what does this mean for your pet boarding or daycare business? For starters, this tells us that there are several ways to generate income by celebrating and promoting your business and services. In fact, promotions can be made in a fun, safe and enjoyable way this Halloween. In October 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported that Americans spent over $300 million dollars on pet costumes alone. Let me say that again – THREE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS in just pet costumes!
Now, starting with this information, we can begin creating several ways of generating income and building better business relationships with creative methods. First, find a wholesale or discount pet costume supplier and start selling them about a month before Halloween. Have samples displayed on inflatable dogs and on racks for eye appeal. According to the National Federation of Retailers, the most popular pet costumes are spiders, pumpkins and witches, but not black cats. Be sure to carry various sizes because it doesn’t matter if a pet fits in a handbag or is a 120 pound Great Dane, I can guarantee the parents will dress them up. Second, give the parents a place to show off their pets in costume by having a pet costume contest. Invite everyone in the community, not just current customers. Anytime you can have an event at your business it creates the valuable foot traffic your business needs to gain new customers and reinforce the bond you have with your current customers. To make the contest more appealing, award prizes for First, Second and Third places. You can also get creative with the awards by pre-advertising the categories that fit the costumes you are selling, like “Cutest Ballerina,” “Most Adorable Pig,” “Greatest Superhero,” and many more.
With my pet costume contests I always like to get cool and economical trophies for the winners. Then to make sure everyone has a positive experience, reward all the contestants with participation ribbons or certificates. I like to get my trophies and ribbons from a school supply awards company. School awards companies tend to get orders processed quickly and have really competitive prices - plus they will personalize the ribbons with my company name and business details on each item which helps with promotions. To increase hype, always promote pictures of the trophies, ribbons and costume ideas on your social media pages like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest, well before the event. Once the pet parents see that they can win a trophy or ribbon your entrants will increase dramatically. To get new customers to come back through your doors you can also offer gift certificates for services or products as other incentives to compete.
Third, make the costume contest a whole promotional party by having fun, pet safe Halloween games, a pet costume parade, pet safe snacks and Halloween photo opportunities. You can create games such as catch the pumpkin (orange balls decorated to look like pumpkins), dunking for apples (cut into bite sized pieces) or snausages, pet face painting (with non-toxic colors) and an evening lighted pet walk or parade. For photo ops, buy or create a cool Halloween backdrop for participants to stand in front of and have their picture taken. You can either have the parents take pictures themselves or you can ask a professional photographer if they would like to donate their time to take pictures and encourage photo print sales to their benefit.
You can have fun activities for the pet owners too; like carving a dog face into a pumpkin or kid’s activities that include pumpkin decorating, ring toss or a raffle for toys and gifts. Realizing that where there are pets, there are usually children, make sure to have kid’s activities included. Hosting any type of party or promotion at your location creates an opportunity to generate or re-establish customer relationships by offering facility tours, giving out informational brochures, creating ties through socialization and generating positive word-of-mouth. This is also a great time to invite your pet food and pet supply vendors to help sponsor the event with product samples and customer education interaction.
For those unable to attend, you can move the party online by inviting others to post their pet’s pictures on your Facebook or other social media pages. Create an online invite through Facebook welcoming everyone to participate in an online contest. The pictures with the most likes or shares would be considered the winners. You can also reward the parents that post the most pictures to your page. Once the contests are over you can use the pictures to create a slideshow to play in your lobby or on your YouTube channel with some fun spooky background music. Anytime you post your events or activities or anything on social media, it gets your name and business in front of pet owners and this always leads to potential sales and promotion successes.
Another online suggestion would be to do a neat promotion on Twitter such as “Trick or Tweet.” Encourage your Twitter followers (and potential followers) to tweet pictures of their pets doing a trick or wearing their Halloween Costume. Share these tweets to Facebook and Pinterest for full exposure and also encourage your followers to like and share the tweets. Remember, if social media is not a part of all of your events and promotions, you are missing a huge audience that could potentially increase sales!
With any Halloween pet celebration there are several things to keep in mind. To keep the party safe, make sure that only spayed or neutered pets that are well behaved are invited. However, knowing that even the most well behaved pet can get too boisterous, it is a good idea to have a time out area fenced off to give them a few minutes to calm down and unwind. Since there will be a lot of edibles, strongly recommend that pet parents keep a close eye on how many treats or goodies their pets are consuming so they do not get sick. While music can create a fun and festive atmosphere, remember that dogs have acute hearing and loud noises or music can create a very stressful or uncomfortable situation.
Any holiday can become a money maker for your business. For Halloween, the “trick” is knowing how to monopolize on the event and the “treat” is the increased income, as well as cultivating new and stronger relationships with your customers. Have a safe and happy Halloween!