How Splash and Dash Owners navigated the pandemic with a franchise business network as support.
2020 has presented unexpected hurdles for pet business owners and other pet professionals. Similarly to the 2001 recession, and then the 2009 financial crisis, the pet service industry did not come to an abrupt halt as many other industries panicked.
From the inception of curbside pick-up to local deliveries, to adjusting proven service models, and now uncovering new selling avenues; these strategies were welcomed by many industries impacted by COVID-19 as consumer preferences forcibly shifted. While navigating these uncharted waters, it was the strong communities around these businesses that ultimately kept them afloat.
Pet Business Owners React to COVID-19
“From the very start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we immediately put changes in place to reduce contact with our clients, while still providing essential services to pets. We were able to do so while maintaining every aspect of social distancing and all steps necessary to maintain safety and mitigate risk.” -Current Splash and Dash Franchise Owner.
The best practices that Splash and Dash Groomerie & Boutique has implemented are:
- Cashless is Cleanest, Contactless Billing with Card on File.
- Commitment to Cleanliness (It’s literally what we do!)
- Increase of routine disinfecting efficiencies.
- Curbside Convenience | Doggy Valet.
- No personal Leashes and Collars left at drop-off.
- Boutiques are marked with directionals and patrons are asked to wear a mask and respect social distancing.
- Our staff is equipped with face shields this way everyone is comfortable and we are certain to never spook a pup!
While change has been unavoidable in many ways due to COVID-19, communication has become a necessity. In any service-based industry, delivering clear and concise information is important. When sudden shifts in operational norms present, it is imperative your customers and employees are aware of your best practices and also able to adapt to any new operational changes with ease.
It’s business, just not as usual…
While the stay-at-home order produced a wide range of responses—pet retailers were deemed essential and the lockdown ultimately highlighted the resilient nature of the pet industry as a whole.
Although pet stores were deemed essential, during the height of fear, so many still closed and stayed home. As fear withered away, pet professionals had to reevaluate their systems, staff, and abilities to then overcome the short-lived lull and the growing need as an essential in their communities.
In such unpredictable times, it’s easy to fall prey to the negativity surrounding a panicked society, but the pet industry proved its resilience. After all, the love and care we provide for our furry family members doesn’t change overnight. Similarly to recessions of the past, people certainly cut back their spending and with heightened caution but when it comes to the wellbeing of their dogs, very few sacrifices are made.
“As an industry, our resiliency and growth throughout this global pandemic is a sign of the positive impacts that change can have. The pet service industry rallied together, and the need to quickly adapt to the changes caused by the pandemic made us all more versatile business owners.” Current Splash and Dash Franchise Owner
The Unexpected Good
While many industries (retail, dining, travel, entertainment) were faced with devastating losses, pet businesses were given the go-ahead to remain open at their discretion.
“At Splash and Dash, we have learned how valuable having a network of support is. From bank relationships, a CPA, and an attorney, each proved to be invaluable resources. Even more importantly, seeing what an incredible team we have amongst our location owners, we quickly saw which employees were here to get us through this time; we saw our customers continue to support us and with great flexibility, and we deployed some of the most powerful iterations of our proprietary technology far before any scheduled release or standard testing.” Says Dan J. Barton, Splash and Dash Founder and CEO
Splash and Dash’s ability to pivot was fueled by regional insights made possible from a diverse franchise network. While some pet businesses have been offering variations of online booking, curbside appointments, and cashless services, many independent brands entered a completely new era. With no real formula to follow, independent retailers and groomers had no centralized guidance or support.
As a franchise system, Splash and Dash locations were able to consult with stakeholders across the country and quickly deploy the appropriate strategies to cover signage, closures, store hours, staff safety, rapid testing, CDC guidelines, changes in efficiency, hazard pay, and government aid.
“This really highlights the power of a business network, something that our competing groomers must struggle to juggle.” -Current Splash and Dash Franchise Owner
The complexity of our custom technology and proprietary POS software has already helped to position Splash and Dash as the best-in-class for the dog grooming industry. To better convenience our customers, we have continued to invest in our proprietary software and for many years. This includes an online consumer booking portal and staffing scheduler which integrates AI learning to manage bookings and process efficiencies. Thankfully, the decision and investment in technology has proven to be the right one. Once COVID-19 hit, we had the foundation in place to throttle back our processes and toggle on features that would allow us to operate a service-based business safely and within CDC compliance.
Keeping digital development in-house, allowed us to adapt to the sudden shifts in operations and consumer tastes. With the ability to quickly and seamlessly adapt to contactless and curbside services, features that existed pre-pandemic but were imperative in allowing us to operate safely as a business deemed as essential. With proprietary software, we have the ability to add contactless features that change our service model instantly and all with the click of a button. This same software is equipped with AI learning which helps to strategically manage the influx of business we are experiencing today. As a network, Splash and Dash is more prepared for the future of pet care than we were a year ago.
As consumers continue to seek out the safest and convenient options, these behaviors may subside once the threat of COVID-19 is no longer prominent, but the cautious routines will be ingrained in all customers who continue to seek mindful alternatives into the foreseeable future.
With Splash and Dash Groomerie & Boutique locations empowered to succeed in this new way of pet services brought on by the pandemic, the payoffs have been profound. While many might assume sales would drop dramatically as lay-offs and furloughs happened by the thousands, that’s not what happened for Splash and Dash.
Covid Growth Results:
A Surge in franchise interest. 12 new units sold in 4 new markets! Smart entrepreneurs are seeking out essential business opportunities.
New Customer Acquisition is up 17.6% across the Splash and Dash network.
Same-Store Sales for grooming services is up 15.4% across the Splash and Dash network.
As people quickly stocked up on the necessities, the needs of their pets were included in that urgency. Pets require food, treats, and other basic needs. In addition, grooming is required care for many breeds. In addition, sales have been boosted by an unexpected rise in pet ownership as many transition to working at home, long term.
Pet Ownership Surges and The Kennels Begin to Clear
In 2020, the ASPCA reported a nearly 70% increase in animals going to foster care and adoption as compared to the same period last year.
Splash and Dash groomers are often viewed as pet experts across their communities. Each quickly noting that there was a significant number of people fostering or adopting dogs during the initial weeks of the lockdown. As dog adoption skyrocketed, this became one of the first positive topics sprinkled in our evening newscasts.
Kris Rotonda founder of Jordans Way Charity, whose brave mission has been to Clear the Damn Shelters and with a history of taking extreme measures to get dogs into new homes, like sleeping in a cage for 72 hours at animal shelters. Kris was thrilled to see his mission go mainstream during Covid-19.
“It’s been incredible to see so many people step up and offer their homes to a new member of the family and during such trying times, with less to do and fewer people to see, the decision to have a dog at home became an obvious one and for so many!” said Kris Rotonda.
After getting word of Kris’s mission and finding out that he neighbors the Splash and Dash Corporateoffices in Pinellas County Florida, Splash and Dash jumped on board to push forward their mission of pampering pooches! For dogs adopted in Kris’s attempts, Splash and Dash would reward a yearly supply of Keepin’ It Simple dog treats made exclusively in-house out of 7 or fewer human ingredients.
“As a company built on family values, we encourage our entire franchise system to get involved in their specific communities and give back to the passionate pet parents who eventually become the loyal patrons at our shops, and we do the same for the community that our corporate offices inhabit,” says Dylan Hendrix, Brand Manager at Splash and Dash Headquarters.
The Big Bad Wolf! BIG Box eCommerce
For many independent pet businesses, the Amazons and Chewys of the industry have been a daunting threat in the shadows and for many years. Now more than ever, brick-and-mortar stores have to find ways to differentiate from online retailers.
Although the items in our boutiques can hypothetically be ordered elsewhere, our exclusive curation of products is hard to come by. Our Groomerie on the other hand is irreplaceable. Haircuts are routine maintenance for most breeds, similarly to humans. Whether this is a fur-cut, de-shed treatment, or nail care; this process and service can not be replicated online or in a simple D.I.Y. fashion. With a Splash and Dash business model, dog grooming has been automated as far as possible, but will never be replaced in full by technology or digital commerce alone. For the handful of weeks that select Splash and Dash locations were closed, we saw a compounding result of waitlisted dogs in desperate need of their scheduled care.
Retailers alone need to consider taking the leap into offering additional pet-related services. With grooming at the core of the Splash and Dash model, this service diversification gave our locations an edge that can’t be replicated on a computer or smartphone. Not all pet services proved to be pandemic-proof; training, in-house sitting, and dog walking services virtually disappeared, yet pet groomers and pet retailers were deemed essential and on a federal level.
Homegrown Advantage by Keepin’ It Simple
Though the distrust in overseas manufacturing is simmering, the COVID-19 pandemic might be the last straw that brings the majority of manufacturing back to the states. American based manufacturers are already capitalizing on their “Made in” labels as consumers prioritize American-made products and for several years now.
“Keepin’ It Simple Dog treats and chews are made and sourced in the USA, so we didn’t have any problems with suppliers during COVID thankfully. Demand certainly did increase,” says Dan J. Barton. “I will personally check contents labels and actively pay more for U.S products, especially consumables, and most of our customers feel that exact way too.” Barton continued.
Similarly to the way people consider the make-up of consumables they feed their four-legged families, those same feelings exist when shopping for pet care service professionals. We notice that Splash and Dash clients prefer the local love associated with Splash and Dash Groomeries. There just isn’t the same level of trust or attention to detail at the big-box retailers. Splash and Dash is concerned about the skin, the coat, and the paws not only just the process or the profit.
No matter what the future holds, pet retailers are left with hopeful confidence. No matter what’s next, the passion of the pet industry is unrivaled and now pandemic proof too!