How pet care businesses are pivoting, helping and feeling the brunt of COVID19

by Nancy Hassel, American Pet Professionals

I am awestruck how quickly our pet care professionals are pivoting, and shifting their services for their customers – whether that customer is a pet parent or another pet professional.  We know that in trying times like what the world is going through, many businesses get creative, and figure out ways they can help and pay their employees at the same time.   

Many of our members of American Pet Professionals have been drastically impacted by COVID19, but are also offering many different services or new ways they can help their customers.  It is encouraging to see.   I hope you take the time to see what they are doing below – and let us know if this has inspired you and your business.  We have a very strong industry and so many working together to help each other – what our organization is founded on.

Pet Sitting and Dog Walking members:

Robyn Elman, the President of In Home Pet Services, a pet sitting franchise with multiple locations in NY, said, “We have lost 60-90% of our total daily business depending on the location and 100% of loss of boarding and vacation sittings.  We are distributing remaining walks between walkers so everyone gets some kind of income. We will continue paying our office staff as long as possible.”

Robyn went on to say that, “We are asking all clients who are working from home and still getting paid, to consider sending partial payment for their walks because when they need us again, we can’t guarantee the walkers will be able to just ‘wait around’ without any income.”  They have shared this information across all their social platforms and are also reaching out to them directly via email.

If you can keep your dog walker and pet sitter coming and walking your dog – keeping that normal schedule, it will help your dog and you if you’re now trying to manage working from home, your kids and husband home and so on. 

Beth Goldin of At Your Service Long Island Pet Care (The Whimsical Pet Company Inc.), based in Huntington, NY, said, “I am frequently emailing and forwarding emails to my client list with Coronavirus updates concerning pets.  I only send information that I have received from my vet and other pet care professionals or information that is on trusted websites.”  

She went on to say that, “As most other pet sitting businesses, we are down significantly.”  Beth also offered some words of encouragement as a pet sitter on Long Island, NY, they have been through the recession and now this.  “Hang in there fellow pet pros.  I will tell you that if (and I highly doubt it) a potential new client reaches out for daily service in a slot that one of your clients who is staying home (and getting paid, by the way, and not using your services) occupies, TAKE IT!  Worry about the overload another time when that stay at home client finally comes back!”  

And if you’re bored, check out jigsaw puzzles to take the edge off while at home if you have slower hours.  (Nancy chiming in here, or use the Jigsaw Puzzle app on your phone).

Beatriz Gunn of Wiggily Waggily pet sitting company based in Westbury, NY, said, “All my boarding for March and April has been canceled. I’m solo so I don’t have a lot of daily walks but the little I have all have been canceled as well.”  

“I have offered to help my elderly clients or any client in the medical field who needs help with their pets and have no family close by. I’m taking pets for a couple of my elderly clients to the vet (one just had surgery and needs a follow up). I’m using InstaCart to have items delivered to them if something so they don’t go out in the crowds. I’ve also offered to be an extra contact for those who are here alone with all family out of state,” Beatriz said.

Love this tip to be in contact, and using InstaCart to help deliver items to her clients.  

Beatriz added, “In times like these, there might not be much we can do. Every store is running low on supplies and we are being asked to keep our distance, but just a phone call to check on them and offer a hand or just to chat for a few minutes has really made a difference.  I have senior clients who’ve been with me for almost 10 yrs and it has really lifted their spirits when I’ve called to check on them.  So I encourage everyone… call your elderly family members, leave a note on your neighbor’s door with your tel # in case they need help, call any client who might be sick or caring for a sick family member. Maybe you can have food delivered to them or share your supplies with them. Or even if there’s nothing you can do, I am sure just knowing you called will make a difference.”

Pet Product Manufacturer members:

Zel Crampton of Diggs, a pet product manufacturer company that makes award-winning,  ergonomic and beautiful collapsible dog crates, based in Brooklyn, N.Y. stated, “We are beginning to tap into our network of experts to offer pet parents insights and information relevant to their current situation: e.g. how to work from home with a new puppy. In addition to thought leadership and owned content, our customer service team is ramping up to prepare to help customers with their changing needs.”

“This is affecting our business, as it is nearly everyone’s in retail. But the silver lining is the opportunity to focus on building out our B2B strategy timed to our brick-and-mortar retail rollout in August. Consumer buying behaviors are sure to change in the coming weeks and months, and we’re keeping our fingers on the pulse of the market to try to remain one-step-ahead of the evolving buying patterns.”

Animal Communication & Healing members:

Jill Lauri an of HealingWithAnimals.com, an Animal Communication & Healing company,  based in Rockaway Beach, NY, said, “Since communication in our relationships can be more challenging when we are experiencing stress, I have been helping pet parents navigate more smoothly through these waters and heal with their pets, telepathically via phone.”  Jill is also working on ways to help pet parents in an upcoming blog post that will be on her website.

Jill said, “The opportunity to deepen the relationships between people and their pets and for both to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually.  Your animals want you to know that they are here for you and love you unconditionally! While they understand that this is a stressful time, they ask that you focus on what is truly important – Love!” 

Member Organizations:

Barbara Cohen, the Executive Director of the Animal Cancer Foundation, based in Norwalk, CT, provided us with what they are doing – a lot of great tips and ideas they are doing:

  • We are re – gramming and posting advice from the AVMA to our followers to dispel myths and misinformation
  • We are contacting our donors and partners to let them know we are working remotely and here to respond to their needs and concerns
  • We are setting up video conference team rules for all our meetings with a role for each member of the team
  • We are encouraging everyone to set up a good working space if they are working remotely, so they are comfortable in the new role
  • We are encouraging our communities to think about their pets, veterinarians and pet support businesses, rescues and shelters with
  • Donations of food, treats, etc., to food pantries, shelters, etc. and told them they can use Amazonsmile for delivery
  • Any non-profits out there like us should look to see if recovery funds will be given to us as well and if we can apply for special grants as were given after 9-11.

“Remember to be a good neighbor and stay well!” Barbara added.

 

Robin Bennett the co-founder and CEO of the The Dog Gurus a training and business consultation organization for the pet care industry that is based in Houston, TX, has created a page with links  to free resources, and Facebook live interviews with duty experts to help pet care facilities dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  All information is free and located at www.TheDogGurus.com/COVID19

 

B2B Pet Business Service Members:

Matt Aldrich of Pet Engine Marketing a marketing company for pet retail clients based in Ann Arbor, MI said, “We are helping our clients from a partnership and marketing standpoint. Advising clients to not act rashly, consider different scenarios from an analytical business perspective (worst-case, most-likely-case, best-case) and act accordingly. Helping outline and put in place policies and practices that aid staff and customers, as well as acting as the primary mouthpiece online for customers that are concerned. We have also helped our clients with resources such as SBA Disaster Assistance Loan info and Business Interruption Insurance. Finally, we provide the marketing levers, PR, and adjustments required for pet businesses to not only ride out this storm but ensure that at the end of it they are still running, and ahead of their local competition in getting back to normal.”

Matt went on to say, “Many of my clients are, more than ever, looking into our e-Commerce and buy-online solution as a way to remain convenient and healthy for their customers. Pets still need feeding. Other clients that are too worried about the current climate to think about spending additional funds right now are installing and promoting (through us) other versions of online (social, email, phone, or website) ordering and curbside ‘hands-free’ pickup.” 

Matt also offered some words of encouragement, “Many pet stores that have been in business for a few decades remember 2009, which at the time was considered the scariest economic scenario of the 21st century. Thinking strategically and creatively allowed some businesses to seize on opportunities presented then to be bigger and better afterward, and we at Pet Engine Marketing are encouraging and helping our clients to do the same. This is a blip in time that will pass, and those seeing the big picture and approaching the situation correctly will find themselves learning to run their business tighter, more efficiently, and more effectively than before, therefore creating amazing growth opportunities when everything clears up.” 

Anybody that wishes to schedule a 30-minute consultation on any of these ideas or information is welcome to do so and it is 100% free!  Contact Matt at the link above.

Retail Store & Grooming Members: 

Kristina Robertson of Barkley Square Professional Pet Services in Falls Church, VA, said they are still open for grooming with regular business hours.  They have added curbside service, clients can come up to the curb, call in and they will come out and take the dog to bring inside for grooming.  They are also leaving the outside door and the inside door open so customers don’t have to touch anything when entering or leaving with their dog.  And they have set up a ‘sanitation station,’ “As soon as a customer walks in they can head to their sanitation station, a table which we set up with hand sanitizer, paper towels, so they can sanitize their hands – and people are really utilizing the station.” Kristina said.  They also have a pet sitting company based in Alexandria, VA and she said her staff is being creative in using unused poop bags on their hands to used door handles to go into client homes – instead of gloves.   

Jill Rodriguez of Bella & Lindy Pet Boutique in Saratoga Springs, NY, said, “I’m taking it day by day at my store right now I actually closed yesterday and today and will start offering limited hours for pick up maybe two days a week.  My building I’m in is pushing for stores to do the voluntary closure right now so it’s been a difficult decision as we still have customers that rely on our store for pet needs so we may be stocking them up and unfortunately closing down for awhile. If that does happen and I can’t be in the store I’m currently putting together local free porch delivery for food and supplies and I’ll start free shipping on orders of $30 or more.  I’m trying to stay positive and not stress – but it’s not easy to do.”  

Carol Anderson of Barkfield Road in Northport, NY,  is still open for regular hours right now, and also have curbside pickup, customers can call in pay over the phone and Carol will bring it out to them.  They never did this before – adding a new service.  The business is booming right now, but understands that it will slow down when everyone stocks up. 

Kim Loper of Harbor Pet, with two locations on the East End of Long Island, NY, one in Greenport and Montuak,  said,  “We are doing home delivery, curbside pickup, and grooming will re-start on Monday in Greenport location, and they are booked for the first few days already.”  She also said they are seeing a shift between her two stores, one being busier as more people from New York City fleeing to their summer homes in the Hamptons, which is close to Montauk, N.Y.  

Catrina Savastano of All Pet Groomery and Call of the Wild In Home Pet Services based in Ridge, NY, said that all of their boarding clients canceled for the next 4 weeks, but their grooming is still open as they are only taking one client at a time, therefore only allowing in 1 person at a time.  All of the other grooming locations surrounding them have closed for 2 weeks.

How is your pet business adjusting, pivoting and perhaps coming up with new business ideas?  Some of the ideas out there I have seen, even none pet industry are very creative and really motivational – even during these unpredictable times.  Let us know what you’re doing and how your managing, send us an email, info@AmericanPetProfessionals.com. Stay safe everyone. <3

 

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