Business development · 29 November 2017

Why your pet dog could be your best marketing tool

Over a third of shoppers are more likely to visit a small store if it has a pet
Over a third of shoppers are more likely to visit a small store if it has a pet

For the owners of Britain’s small shops, having a pet in-store to greet customers can provide a surprising boost to business, new research has revealed.

Across the UK, independent retail owners who keep pets in their physical stores receive a total annual income boost of around £59.7m on average, research from American Express has shown.

As the country’s small businesses prepare for Small Business Saturday, which falls on 2 December this year, many owners may be thinking more seriously about putting a “doggie in the window” to draw in customers and increase sales.

Watch Labour MP Chuka Umunna discuss the merits of Small Business Saturday in our exclusive video interview

The draw of pets is so irresistible that over a third of British shoppers are more likely to visit a small store if it has a pet. Meanwhile, 30 per cent claim that a shop that has a pet persuades them to linger in-store for an extra 13 minutes.

The research found that 32 per cent of shoppers are more inclined to take time to talk to staff at small shops that have pets, while the likelihood of shoppers mentioning a store on social media increases by 22 per cent in the presence of a pet dog or cat.

Most importantly for retailers, so-called “animal attraction” encourages shopper spending. Over eight million consumers said they’d be more likely to spend an average of £6.86 when there’s a pet on the shop floor.

“The presence of a dog can be a great ice breaker for tentative browsers and can even entice new customers through the front door,” said director at American Express, Nikki Edelman.

Commenting on the statistics, he added: “It might seem unconventional but it appears that business owners who bring their pets to work have the perfect company asset.”

The study also showed that of the different types of pet, dogs had more of a positive influence on workplaces than any other, and not just shops on the high street.

In its poll of dog owners, American Express found that 44 per cent were more efficient during working hours because they have to walk their pet dog.

Some 36 per cent said having a pet dog nearby when working increased their productivity, whilst 61 said their pet dog kept them company when they worked alone.

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One shop owner who attested to the retail power of her pet dog is Aimee Madill, owner of Phlox Books, an independent book shop in Leyton, London.

According to Madill, her French bulldog Huxley has become an essential part of her small business marketing strategy, and is well known to local customers thanks to regular social media appearances.

“I opened the bookshop and bar about six months ago, and it has been a real joy to be able to bring Huxley to work with me,” explained Madill. “Having Huxley around gives the shop such a homely feel and people love to come in, sit with a book and a coffee whilst he gets on with his daily work of running a business.

“He’s becoming a bit of a local celebrity in the area, as he often sits by the window and people can’t resist taking a photo, or popping in to say hello and have a browse – always a very good thing for a small business!”

Edelman went on to say that shoppers across the UK should remember to support their local businesses on Small Business Saturday 2017 on 2 December, regardless of whether they have pets.

He said: “Whether you are an animal lover, pet owner or neither, we encourage everyone to paws for thought this Small Business Saturday and show their support for local independents by shopping small”.

Small Business Saturday success for retailers – but festive season still presents challenges

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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