Tips for Starting a Pet Boutique

Woman with small dog shopping in pet store
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Pet boutiques can provide high-quality products to pet owners. As opposed to large pets stores or pet sections in department stores, boutiques cater to pet owners who want to pamper their pets or those who place a high priority on foods with specific ingredients and supporting local business.

Americans spent more than $75 million on pets in 2019, as estimated by the Pet Product Manufacturers Association (APPMA), and that number is projected to grow in 2020. This continued growth provides a market for small business owners with a passion for pampering pets.

Gain Experience

Prior employment in an animal-related field is always beneficial when starting a pet boutique business. Experience in retail sales, especially as a pet product sales representative, will prove particularly useful.

If you've never worked in a retail pet sales environment it would be wise to find a part or full-time position with an established business to learn the industry. There is no substitute for hands-on experience.

Business Considerations

Before opening your pet boutique you must take into account various business and legal considerations. You should consult your accountant regarding the advantages and disadvantages of forming your business as a sole proprietorship, limited liability company, or other entity.

You also should contact your local government with regard to any permits or licenses that could be necessary for your business. Obtaining an insurance policy should also be on the planning checklist.

Name and Location

Your pet boutique business should have a name that makes it stand out from the crowd, especially big-box chain pet stores. Emphasis should be placed on the unique, high-quality goods and services you can provide through your boutique location.

Clientele is important when considering location. A pet boutique will be supported by pet owners with enough disposable income to be willing to pamper their pets with high-priced food and other items.

You have to determine whether you will offer your products online via a website or through a brick and mortar retail location. A web-based store has a much lower startup cost. A retail store offers additional exposure and customer traffic, but it will involve added costs for rent, employee salaries, and insurance. Many boutiques offer both online and retail shopping options.

Select Your Products

A pet boutique can carry a wide assortment of products and pet care items. Some boutiques specialize in creating customized items. Such services could include letting customers choose their own materials and design for custom pet bedding, or engraving pet identification tags and collar nameplates. Handmade local leather goods, such as collars and leashes, often are popular purchases for pet owners.

Generally, the inventory of a pet boutique can include pet care supplies, clothing, bedding, travel carriers, a variety of toys and treats, and gift baskets. Some boutiques also operate a pet bakery and create all-natural gourmet treats.

Consider offering grooming services on site. Clients willing to spend on high-end products at a pet boutique typically are willing to pamper their pets in other ways.

Animal-themed human apparel may also be of interest to consumers, especially to those owners who are fans of a particular breed. Breed-specific items can be hot sellers, so it is wise to keep items relating to the popular breeds in stock.

Marketing Strategies

There are many ways to advertise your pet boutique. It's always a good idea to align your boutique with other local businesses, such as women’s clothing boutiques, interior design studios, or other high-end shops. You can approach these venues and ask if you can leave your business card or even develop a reciprocal advertising venture between your businesses.

Other venues where you can advertise your pet boutique may include veterinary clinics, dog grooming shops, doggie daycare businesses, supermarkets, retail shopping centers, and office complexes. Events like dog shows and pet industry expos also are excellent places to set up a booth to offer samples and demonstrations of products.

Additional advertising options include placing an ad in the phone directory, creating a personalized web page, or taking advantage of advertising opportunities with local media outlets. If you do create a website, be sure to allow your customers to subscribe to a mailing list for a weekly or monthly newsletter featuring special offers, events, and coupons.

Donating gift baskets to charity events and fundraisers on behalf of your pet boutique is a great way to gain further exposure in your community. Make sure to include your business card and logo. Over time, word of mouth will become an excellent source of customer traffic.