January 13, 2017

I have always encouraged pet retailers to offer dog training classes through their stores because they stimulate product sales and increase consumer loyalty. Customers are 53 percent more inclined to shop at a retail store if it has services available that can enrich their shopping experience, according to Marketing Metrics.

The costs are minimal and the return on investment is often excellent. Big box chains, such as Petco and PetSmart, have known this for decades, which is why they offer this and other services.

A lack of space is a common objection to offering dog training classes. How could a store host a class without adequate space for the owners and their dogs? The answer depends on the dog trainers with whom a store works and how the staff approaches the challenge.

During the three decades my former company provided dog training classes, we conducted client surveys every year. The surveys measured product sales and ascertained why clients enrolled in the classes.

The No. 1 reason was to learn how to solve dog behavior problems. If your store doesn’t have the space for dog obedience classes, you could offer problem-solving solutions in individual lectures, charging $15 to $30 for a 60-minute session. Most stores have enough room for a lecture, a place where five to 10 owners (sans dogs) can stand or sit for a session.

This format gives you a myriad of topics that can be adapted to specific customer needs, such as:

• How to stop problem chewing.

• How to stop your dog from digging up the backyard.

• House manners, like how to teach your dog not to jump on people and how to behave in your home.

• Exercise programs for your dog.

• Holiday tips to keep your dog safe.

• How to keep your dog’s barking under control.

These lectures can also be season specific. Topics can be:

• Tips to make your home safe for your pets during the holidays.

• How to teach your dog to not fear the sound of fireworks.

• Summer tips, including pool safety and how to safely travel with a pet during hot weather.

All of these lectures provide pet product-oriented advice, such as house training needs (odor neutralizers, crates or exercise pens, puppy pads, pet doors, etc.), chewing solutions (feeding a proper diet, chew and interactive toys, etc.) and exercise programs (leashes, collars, harnesses, fetch toys, etc.).

Moreover, the lectures don’t have to be limited to dog behavior; cat problems could also be addressed, such as litter box issues.

Retailers could also offer dog trainers who already have a training class location a place to conduct the first lesson and/or lecture—a win for both. By advertising the trainer’s classes, you are bringing him or her more clients, while the dog trainer is bringing you more potential customers, since many of his or her clients will be new to your store.

When selecting a trainer to conduct these lectures, have them give you and your staff a talk on how to solve a behavior problem like chewing. Is the trainer’s presentation concise and understandable? Do you agree with the advice offered in the presentation, and does it include applicable products that you carry in your store? Is the trainer engaging?

It is important to hire a knowledgeable trainer who is not only a talented speaker, but whose philosophy will include recommending products that are available in the store. If not, it could be problematic for a trainer to suggest products not offered by the retailer.

Retailers who follow these simple precautions will increase the likelihood that the lectures they offer will be first rate and beneficial to the pet owners as well as to their own sales figures. By embracing the lecture concept, retailers can create a new profit center, which in turn can stimulate product sales while increasing customer loyalty.

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