When people first think of a pet franchise, they may associate it with an experience with their own pet. They may have recently picked up a chew toy or water bowl at Pet Supplies Plus or a bag of food at Wild Birds Unlimited. They could have also dropped off their pooch at boarding and daycare establishments such as Camp BowWow or Dogtopia. These are all popular franchises that specialize in pet products or services.
A lot of people across the country can relate to the need for pet care. A 2019-2020 survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) showed that 67 percent of all US households have at least one pet, which is approximately 84.9 million homes. That figure has steadily increased since the APPA issued its first survey in 1988, which indicated 56 percent of US households owned a pet.
In addition to the growing number of pet owners, people are also spending more money on the dogs, cats, birds and fish in their homes. The APPA reported $95.7 billion spent on pets in 2019 with an estimated $99.0 billion to be spent in 2020. Pet care is big business and there are a lot of very profitable franchise opportunities in this industry.
There is a wide range of pet friendly franchises. Some are very large brick-and-mortar establishments with hundreds of pet products and supplies or spacious boarding locations with a full staff to oversee the care and attention for a pet. Depending on the size and type of franchise, these can cost less than $100,000 or more than $1 million.
Conversely, there are many other home-based franchises such as pet-grooming businesses and dog-walking or dog-training services. These are service-based businesses with little to no physical infrastructure and are very inexpensive. Some of those operations begin with one person performing the pet service before hiring others to do it as the business grows.
The amount of money spent on pets each year reflects the love and attention people give to them. A 2019 survey from SpotOn Virtual Smart Fence showed 98 percent of dog owners considered their dogs to be a member of the family. The humanization of pets is a major trend in which people buy them clothes, take them to daycare and treat them to gourmet meals. Owners are spending more money on their pets’ appearance, activities and medical care, and business owners are benefitting from it.
Having such a large, stable and even growing customer base is a tremendous benefit for a franchise owner of a pet friendly business. It falls under the attractive recession-resistant category, knowing there will always be a demand for its products and services. As so many businesses’ sales have struggled during the pandemic, the pet industry has largely operated without change as owners continue to provide for their furry friends.
Although that is a nice benefit, I don’t think that is a primary reason most people get into the pet business. In my experience as a franchise coach, the majority of people do it because they like pets, mostly dogs. Having a love for animals seems like a prerequisite for owning a pet franchise. The entire business will be centered around animals, and customers will expect the franchisee to reciprocate their knowledge, care and interest of their pets.
Just as there is a wide variety of pet friendly franchises, the skills a franchise owner must possess to operate a business vary greatly. Owning a pet supermarket requires several hats, such as managing staff and overseeing payroll and inventory. There will obviously be a completely different skill set for smaller, home-based businesses such as grooming or dog training. There is not one specific set of skills that fits all franchises in this industry. The common trait among nearly all franchisees in this sector comes back to a love of pets.
There are a lot of great benefits of owning a pet friendly franchise, from a having large, built-in customer base to working with pets each day. However, it doesn’t mean there aren’t some challenges that come along the way.
Many people are motivated to get into the pet business by their love of animals, which is often their own pet. Much like children, people love their own kids and their own pets. But what about other people’s pets? Franchise owners will need to love everyone’s animals, and that ranges for Shih Tzus to Great Danes to cats, ferrets and snakes. They must also be patient with aggressive or disobedient animals and be comfortable in carrying a lot of insurance.
Working around animals each day can be taxing on one’s senses. There will be a lot of smells, especially with a lot of cats and dogs in one place. There can also be a lot of noise, such as the constant barking at a doggy daycare or boarding facility. Pet care franchisees must be the people who hear these sounds more as music than noise.
While people are willing to spend freely on their pets, that places a great deal of responsibility on those in the pet care industry. Customers view them more as their own children than just pets. If they bring the dog to get trimmed or for daycare, they need to know their pet will be treated perfectly. Same for a store that makes a pet sick from the food you sold them. There are heightened expectations for the care their pets will receive, and owners take it very personally if something goes wrong.
Even with some of these challenges, the positive is that many people who look to get into the pet care business love animals and embrace all aspects of the operation. Those people have a lot of great franchise opportunities in a stable and profitable industry.
Rick Bisio is one of the countries most respected franchise coaches and author of the Amazon best seller, The Educated Franchise – 3rd Edition. Since becoming a franchise coach in 2002, Bisio has assisted thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs nationwide explore the dream of business ownership.