Camp Bow Wow

By Christopher Zoukis

Rismedia.com (RM) reports that ever-increasing spending on pets indicates a need for more high-end pet services, such as pet spas, day cares, gourmet pet food, and luxury grooming salons. According to RM, groomers offering luxury services cannot keep up with demand. Image courtesy campbowwow.com

Petco offers polo shirts for cats and dogs, along with pet shoes and lifejackets for owners who take their pets sailing. Pet groomers in Tampa, Florida make more than $100,000 per year and believe the grooming business is recession-proof. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APM) agrees, forecasting that affluent pet owners will spend $3.2 billion on grooming services, which includes pedicures.

Camp Bow Wow, which is located in Tampa, markets itself as a “Doggy Day Camp and Overnight Camp.” The camp offers climate-controlled accommodations, classical music at night, and webcams. The webcams make it possible for owners to check on their pets, using their computers at home or work.

Just Dogs Gourmet sells customized hand-decorated doggie-treats. They also offer pet sunglasses, which sell very well.

Healthcare for pets has burgeoned from a $7.1 billion industry in 2001, to an estimated $14 billion in 2010, according to the APM. And more than 1 million pets are now covered by health insurance. And Tampa lawyer Jennifer Dietz specializes in pet law. She handles numerous pet-injury lawsuits and sets up pet trusts.

According to Buzzle.com, the demand for luxurious pet carriers has skyrocketed. Four years ago, the most expensive pet carriers were $200. Now, they start at $400 and exceed $1000. Affluent pet owners want style, high-fashion, Italian leather, quality hardware and handcrafted items. They are no longer simply pet carriers. They are fashion and personality statements.

Buzzle.com cites a number of reasons for marketing to affluent pet owners:

~Luxury customers are wealthier. They have the wherewithal to purchase a variety of luxury items for their pets.

~Luxury customers often buy ensembles. They want everything to be color-coordinated and made of the same material.

~Luxury customers want the best and the newest items. This means they constantly move up. They want to know when new items arrive and are available. Price is not relevant. Style and quality is what they seek.

~Luxury customers desire the “wow factor.” Products having the “wow factor” make a statement. This appeals to the luxury customer’s “must have” psychology.

Buzzle.com asserts that marketing and selling successfully to luxury customers means understanding them as people. Their lifestyle means two to three homes, travel schedules, professional careers, and high fashion clothing and accessories. Understanding this lifestyle means employees can be trained properly and know what such customers expect.

Hiring the right people to sell luxury items to high-end clients poses a tremendous challenge, according to Buzzle.com. Why? Because luxury customers expect sales associates to know their products and, most importantly, to understand the customer’s needs and how to cater to them. When dealing with luxury customers, the relationship between the customer and the sales associate is key.

Buzzle.com offers the following tips to enhance the relationship:

~The personality of employees should fit in with the culture of luxury products and reflect the image of the company. Seek out the opinions of other employees when hiring new people. Does the potential employee fit in?

~The image of employees should attract and appeal to high-end clients. Do employees have a passion for the culture of luxury? Do they demonstrate energy and commitment to the idea of excellence and exclusivity?

~Training of employees is vital when dealing with luxury customers. Full knowledge of the luxury products and company policies provides employees with confidence. Training should be fun. Treat employees as they are expected to treat customers. This sets and example that carries over to the customer.

~Hiring the right people is a priority. This means being on the lookout for potential employees at all times. Other employees should function as ambassadors of employee recruitment.

~The best employees to hire do not always have experience in the luxury culture. Instead, they have innate people-skills that allow them to connect to luxury customers and they exhibit passion and energy. In short, they look and act the part.

~Encourage luxury customers for referrals for potential employees. They understand what they want and who might provide it.

~Success breeds success. This means great employees who enjoy their work act as a magnet for other great employees.

~Remember to use great employees to train new employees. They already understand how to relate to luxury customers and what they expect. Excitement and enthusiasm are contagious. People want to be part of excellence.