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Surviving the Winter Months

Posted: Jan. 30, 2012, 3:15 p.m. EST

I hope all of you have had a chance to catch your breath during this post-holiday lull. Thankfully, this winter has been devoid of snow so far in the Northeast. As a result, the weather hasn’t negatively impacted my business as drastically as last year when it seemed as though an appreciable snowstorm hit every four or five days.

Dog treats

I’m gearing up for a busy February. In early February, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., hosts a Winterfest Celebration. The focal point of the weekend is the annual Chowderfest where dozens of restaurants cook up their best chowder recipes and serve more than 70,000 bowls to the hungry public. For the sixth year in a row, I’ll be offering a doggie chowder to four-legged chowderheads. Last year, we served more than 100 bowls of Marley’s Meat Chowder. My customers look forward to this event months in advance.

New this year, I’m having a local photographer come to the store to take Valentine’s photos of my customers with their dogs (complete with backdrop and props). Do you have an event that takes place in your area that you can apply a doggie flair to? Be creative and turn something that on the surface wouldn’t appeal to your customer base into a blockbuster sales day for your business.

I’m also installing an oven in my new location in mid-February so that I can bake my dog treats on premises. This will increase the overall efficiency of my operation as all my baking now takes place after hours in my home kitchen. In addition, I anticipate baking on premises will increase sales as the smell of peanut butter biscuits permeates the sales floor. Who can resist bringing something home for their dog fresh out of the oven? Don’t overlook the gourmet treat sector of the industry. I’ve been in other dog boutiques where there are only a few different choices of fancy treats and the treats are displayed in a small acrylic case.

In both of my boutiques, the bakery treats are the focal point of the sales floor and are displayed in large, glass bakery cases. The treats result in repeat business (since they are consumable) and during one of those repeat visits, invariably a waterproof coat, cozy sweater or a new collar/leash set will end up in the bag next to the treats. Valentine’s treats are a big seller in both of my boutiques. Are you fully stocked with conversation hearts, I Love You bones and peanut butter truffles?

Hoping the balmy winter continues and Punxsutawney Phil does NOT see his shadow!

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