Many pet retailers take time during the holiday rush to focus on giving back to local rescue groups, nonprofit organizations and other charitable initiatives, helping everyone get in the yuletide spirit.
BY JEN GOETZ
There’s no industry that feels the holiday bustle more than retail. Whether customers are heading to pet stores seeking toys for their pets or a pet-themed gift for a two-legged loved one, retailers need to be on the top of their game to make sure holiday wishes come true.
In the midst of strategizing for the busy season, deciding on merchandise and inventory, and managing seasonal employees, many pet retailers prioritize giving back to their community by hosting or taking part in a charity event or fundraiser.
For Laura Gangloff, co-owner of Riverfront Pets, giving to charity was something she had in mind since she started her Wilmington, Del.-based pet specialty store with her husband, Clinton.
“As my husband and I were developing the store, it was important for us to partner with a rescue/shelter so we could both rely on their expertise and promote adoption in our area,” she says. “I was volunteering with the Delaware Humane Association (DHA) and I was really taken with their positive approach.”
The DHA hosts a Photos with Santa event, and Gangloff saw the opportunity to get her pet store involved. She approached the rescue about having the Photos with Santa event at Riverfront Pets’ grand opening.
“We supplied the Santa, the backdrop, the paper and ink for printing and made a donation that would cover their typical income from that event,” explains Gangloff. “[The DHA] supplied a wonderful photographer, volunteers and, of course, adoptables.”
Like Riverfront Pets, many pet stores partner with charities or decide on a fundraiser from the start.
Notorious D.O.G., a pet retailer based in Clarence, N.Y., opened its business with holiday charity initiatives in mind. According to president Laura LaCongo, LVT, the store has displayed a donation box through the holiday season since it first opened in 2016.
“We have a donation bin starting in November for perishables, and in December and January [the donation bin] is for coats, sweaters, beds, leashes and collars,” says LaCongo.
But that’s not all Notorious D.O.G. has done more to help its local community.
“In 2017, we did [a Christmas] photo shoot and in place of a photographer fee, we donated all proceeds to rescues, and the photographer donated 10 percent of their proceeds,” she says.
Hosting events and fundraisers generates resources that may make all the difference for pets and people.
Stacy Busch-Heisserer, owner of Busch Pet Products, shares that her pet store partners with the Southeast Missouri Food Bank (SEMO) for its Pink Walk, an event to raise funds for breast cancer treatment in October, as well as for its Giving Tuesday event.
Before working with Busch Pet Products, SEMO had no way to provide families in need with dog or cat food. To Busch-Heisserer’s amazement, she learned from SEMO that an individual once asked for a pack of hot dogs to feed his dog.
“That just shocked me... I never knew they would say that’s what people are doing,” says Busch-Heisserer.
Busch Pet Products has partnered with SEMO on a number of charity initiatives to help support pet parents in need of supplies.
“We take donations from dog food companies, and we take a portion of our proceeds and host mobile events to help support SEMO,” says Busch-Heisserer.
Partnering with charities or nonprofit organizations and holding holiday-themed photo shoots are some ways to draw customer interest—another is by partnering with manufacturers.
“We do a Bentley’s brand toy that Fluff & Tuff makes for us,” says Lisa Senafe, president and co-founder of the Lincolnshire, Ill. -based pet retailer. “Last year, we did a candy cane. We pick a nonprofit organization and donate $3.00 from each branded toy sold that month.”
Bentley’s also partners with a local shelter each year and has a “giving tree” donation program. After receiving a shelter wish list, the pet retailer has a tree on display for the donations that customers make to support the shelter in question.
Hosting a charitable event or donating to a charity doesn’t have to take much time at all, but retailers should consider the size and scope of the event, because some may require more planning than others.
“Depending on the size of the event, it does take quite a lot of planning to assign a group or rescue and to identify what they need the most, and then make the phone calls to get merchandise donations from our vendors,” says Barbara Ratner, CEO and owner of Boca Raton, Fla.-based Holistic Pet Cuisine.
For Riverfront Pets, hosting its Photos with Santa event does not require much energy from the store itself.
“All things considered, not much preparation is needed,” shares Gangloff. “The tricky part is scheduling and bringing everyone together. The photo events are popular enough that we need to hand out tickets, and pets and humans may need to wait for their turn.”
For LaCongo, preparing for the holiday season’s charitable events takes a significant amount of time and energy, but she says it’s all worth it.
“[There’s] TONS of prep work, starting from creating events, receiving numerous phone calls, setting up the night prior and taking everything down the evening after,” explains LaCongo. “It’s very time consuming… [but] we do enjoy helping a great cause.”
Customers value and appreciate when pet retailers make the extra effort during the holiday season. By taking the time and putting in the effort to give back, customers can easily see how involved a pet retailer is with the local community.
“We live in a particularly pet-friendly community. Our customers love this event and many of them use the results as their annual Christmas card!” says Gangloff.
Ratner explains the store’s charitable efforts get the best reception when clients get to participate in anything that has to do with rescues.
Not only does the idea of helping support charities around the holiday season appeal to the public, having an event brings exposure to your pet store.
“It brings [customers] together in our store! From a marketing standpoint, [these events] are invaluable,” says Gangloff.
A charity event or a fundraiser is a great way to bring holiday cheer into pet stores and celebrate the season in a care-free and positive way.
“If we’re doing something for [the people who rely on SEMO], then we’re doing something right,” says Busch-Heisserer.
At the end of the day, pet retailers want to do their part to give back to their community.
“The reason we engage in charitable initiatives during the holidays is to give back to the community that supports us and to promote causes we feel strongly about,” says Gangloff. “Events like this bring people together.” PB