Apps such as BringFido reflect the current cultural shift towards allowing dogs to accompany owners wherever they go. Instead of “Service Dogs Only” signs, you now sometimes find a canister of canine treats behind the counter. One of our business neighbors reports that offering dog biscuits has led to an increase in customer visits initiated by eager pooches.

Many cities now allow dogs on patios and other outdoor areas of restaurants, and hotels that once charged prohibitive cleaning fees are gaining dog-loving clientele through their pet-friendly policies. It is common to see bowls of fresh water for dogs in front of businesses that want to please dog owners.

In most states and municipalities, there are regulations regarding the presence of animals – not just dogs, but also cats, birds and snakes – in grocery stores. The Food and Drug Administration states that only service animals are allowed where food is sold. However we find that more shoppers are now bringing their dogs into our store, even though we do carry some candy and food, without asking first. We’ve decided that as long as their pet is well-behaved, we won’t make a fuss – but we don’t advertise our shop as being dog-friendly because of the food issue.

This pro-pet trend is fueled by the fact that over half of all Millennials own a dog, and this demographic wants to include their pets in their social lives. A survey by TD Ameritrade discovered that 67% of Millennials see their pet as part of their family and would refer to them as their “fur baby.” It’s worth noting that this survey also showed that Millennial dog owners spend $1,285 a year on their pet – and that’s not all kibble and vet bills. Even if you don’t allow dogs in your store, you might consider stocking some gift items that appeal to this important market segment.

Happy Retailing,
Carol “Orange” Schroeder