One of the fastest growing industries in the United States today is the pet industry. The industry as a whole has increased 20% over the past 5 years and is projected continued growth in the upcoming years. Over the past 10 years, the pet industry has grown to a $34 billion dollar industry. This exceeds what we spend on candy and toys. The candy industry has become a $25 billion dollar industry while the toys are a $20 billion dollar industry.
Pet owners are now professional couples who are opting for pets versus children, retired couples and empty nesters. All with disposable income to spend on their furry little friend.
The fastest growing category with the most opportunity for growth is luxury for pets. After all, now we can get a massage for our pets, an aromatherapy spa treatment, doggy day care is a must in the city and you can even have them picked up by a Rolls Royce to take them for their weekly manicure pawdicure. Even luxury hotels are now offering special menus for our furry companions.
For pet retailers, it is important to understand what the expectations are of the luxury client. Who is the luxury client and what is it that they have come to expect?
The luxury client shops at Chanel, Gucci, Luis Vuitton, Prada and Neiman Marcus to name a few. She stays in 4 and 5 star hotels. She eats at the finest restaurants. She wears designer and she shops designer boutiques because of the experience. She is not price resistent. So what is the experience that she expects you ask?
1. Know her name when she enters the store. Make sure that you and your staff know and understand her lifestyle. She expects service and expects to be waited on.
2. The luxury client expects to work with knowledgable fashion oriented sales associates that understand how to sell a luxury product and are knowledgable in features, advantages and benefits. These sales associates also have an appreciation for luxury items and often purchase for themselves. Associates such as these are seen as credible sources to these clients.
3. Luxury is about an experience. The experience takes them away from their everyday world. The experience may include a glass of champagne or wine, cheese and crackers or tea and scones. A beautiful scent and soothing music as they enter into the environment helps to enhance the experience.
4. Merchandising a luxury product involves a clean presentation of the merchandise that is dust free and featured beautifully in the boutique. Lighting that highlights the product is critical to enhancing the shopping experience.
5. Follow through and communication with the client is paramount. This would include a thank you note after she purchases or stops by the store. Calling her when new product arrives. Calling her on her birthday, knowing important events in her life such as her anniversary, knowing the name of her husband and children. All are about the personal attention and care that you and your team provide.
Most importantly, understand what designer products mean in the pet world. A handbag pet carrier for example should have an average price point of $600.00+. In pet clothing, an average price point of over $150.00, and pet beds should be at an average price point of over $400.00. Too many vendors are promoting designer products which in reality are poor in quality and construction and are priced well below a designer price point. Be cautious of what you carry in your store that is featured as designer as this can very well turn away the client that you are looking to attract. Most importantly, staff your store with people that understand how to attract, sell and grow a luxury client base.
Hedy Woodrow is the CEO of Designer Paws International. Designer Paws specializes in luxury pet carriers that are fashionable for a sophisticated client. Prior to starting Designer Paws, Hedy spent 20 years in the luxury fashion business as a Senior Vice President of Retail for a major luxury brand. Her broad retail experience included managing stores, buyers, visual teams, inventory control teams and planners and distribution teams. She has traveled extensively throughout the US and Europe attending high profile celebrity events that have given her exposure to a very high end client. Her insights come from personal experience both as a leader in the fashion industry and as a client. Her website at http://www.hedymanon.com features luxury products that are unique to the pet industry.