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Pretty much nothing makes pet parents happier then when other people show love for their furry friends. Which is why finding a business that’s not just tolerant of their pets, but friendly to them is such a win for them. Even if it’s a tad pricier or a little out of their way, they’re willing to show their loyalty to those folks who are loyal to their pets.
This is something TripsWithPets.com President and Founder Kim Salerno knows first-hand. “I personally feel great about doing business with people who appreciate my dogs,” she notes. “When I lived in Maine, I frequented a fantastic day spa called Salon Freeport, which allowed me to bring my dog Tucker. It was a great bonding time for us – a day of beauty with Mom, where he got to lounge and relax on the same table with me while I got a facial.”
Kim asserts that she returned to Salon Freeport even when she wasn't with Tucker because they gained her loyalty -- in part because they are so welcoming to pets. And she’s not alone. In a 2003 study commissioned by Starwood Hotels, out of 400 dog owners surveyed, 76 percent said that they were more likely to be loyal to a pet friendly hotel brand – whether or not they were traveling with their pets.
The idea of pet friendly brand loyalty has implications for every business. Pet parents dream of a world where they can bring their furry kids along to browse favorite bookstores or clothing shops, wait with them during a car repair, or accompany them while they get their taxes done. Any business that brings this dream closer stands well in their favor.
In a pet-centric culture like ours, businesses who open their doors to pets can benefit in a number of ways. They can win over a new client demographic, leading to more business overall. They can increase positive brand perception by showing that they care about animals and respect the feelings of pet lovers. They can create a fun and welcoming atmosphere for clients. And they can increase their revenue by providing pet friendly products and services for their pet parent clientele. With Americans spending an all-time high of more than $53 billion on their pets in 2012, the potential for added profit is certainly there.
Business owners who bring their own pets to the workplace can benefit too. It’s an immediate draw - not many children or grown-up animal lovers could resist wandering into a store if they saw a little furry, friendly face inside. And pets don’t just invite people in. They inspire friendly conversation, help business owners build a great connection with patrons, and make an establishment truly memorable.
In general, the hospitality industry has been one of the most enthusiastic adopters of pet friendly practices. Pet friendly hotel chains are increasing in numbers. Many boutique hotels go above and beyond for their furry guests, offering luxury amenities like massages, grooming spas, gift baskets and pet taxis. And an increasing number of restaurants welcome dogs to their outdoor dining areas, with many offering water bowls, dog treats, or even a separate menu for dogs.
That said, many other non-hospitality businesses have found ways to welcome four-legged friends, from offering simple water bowls and treats, to providing pet-oriented services and products, to setting aside indoor or outdoor spaces where pets can play or relax.
Even colleges and universities are seeing the benefits of accommodating pets. Allowing pets in dorms can provide comfort and companionship for students who may be far from home – perhaps for the first time. What’s more, for a pet lover, the ability to bring Fido along to college may be a determining factor in which college they choose. Most colleges allow fish, and many allow reptiles and small rodents. Some allow dogs and cats outright, while others are willing to work with students to accommodate their dog or cat under specific conditions.
Dana Kilborne, President and CEO of Florida Bank of Commerce, which welcomes pets inside its branches, believes that being pet friendly is an extension of being a family and community-oriented business.
“We’re here to serve our community, which is made up of families,” she explains. “We don’t see ourselves as bankers. We’re mothers, fathers, sons and daughters who happen to practice banking. We welcome all well-behaved family members through our doors, and that includes pets.”
Dana believes that, while subtle, the benefits of being a pet friendly business are very real, both for clients and their pets.
“We find that our pet friendly practices help to humanize the otherwise institutional feel of the financial services industry,” she notes. “Our personal bankers don’t just know our clients by name. They know their pets by name as well. And we’ve had clients tell us that their pets recognize when they’re going to the bank, and look forward to the trip even more than they do!”
Whether a bank, a hotel, or a salon, the bottom line -- as Dana and many others have found – is this: if a business welcomes pets, their people won’t be far behind, and that’s a good thing for everyone.