Customers from all over Canada turn to Poochey Couture to pamper their pets.
By Devon McPhee
|The array of boutique items ensures clients will always find an appealing item.|
Racks of the trendiest clothes and the hottest accessories fill the store. It hosts fashion shows and other events. Celebrities have been known to shop here. It’s one of the hippest boutiques in Montreal—and it’s dedicated to dogs and the people who love them.
Poochey Couture in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, was opened two years ago by Heidi Taiger as a place for young professionals and empty nesters to find clothing, accessories and other items with which to pamper their dogs.
The store, a runner-up for Pet Product News International’s Retailer of the Year 2008-2009, has a very high-end feel—brightly colored walls, designer dog clothing, espresso and cookies for customers—and focuses on service.
“We have sophisticated customers who always want something new,” Taiger explains. “We’re constantly on the lookout for the latest trends and really listen to our customers to make sure we are providing them with what they want.”
Bringing in Customers
|A Poochey Couture participant awaits his turn at the Westmont Square Fashion Show.|
With the shop located off the beaten path, Taiger says she focuses much of her energy on bringing new customers into the boutique.
“You can’t open your doors and expect customers to stop by—you have to go out and get them,” she notes.
When the store first opened, Taiger would visit dog parks, handing out $5 gift cards to entice customers into her boutique. She also cross-promoted with veterinarians, dog groomers, dog walkers and pet sitters.
Today, Taiger has a more technological approach to garnering new customers. She has built a strong presence on the Internet with a company website, a store profile on both MySpace and Facebook, and videos of Poochey Couture fashion shows on YouTube.
“Having a web presence really is the wave of the future,” Taiger reports. “You can reach so many more people with a website, especially in Canada, which is so spread out.”
With websites now an integral part of the success of independent retailers, Taiger says owners must invest time and money in maintaining their online presence.
AT A GLANCE
Location: TMR Shopping Centre, 2344 Lucerne, Town of Mount Royal (Montreal),
Owner: Heidi Taiger
Size: 500 square feet
Employees: One part time, one full time
Years in Business: Two years
Products and Services Offered: High-end dog boutique featuring designer clothing, accessories, toys, bowls, beds, treats and grooming supplies.
“Websites are an entity onto themselves,” she says. “They must be professionally designed and constantly updated.”
On a typical day, Taiger says she spends approximately four hours a day updating the store’s website, removing out-of-stock items or adding photos of happy customers. When the store receives a shipment, she devotes even more time to her site, placing the new items online.
“It’s important from a customer-service standpoint to always be up to date,” she states. “We joke that if it’s out of stock, a customer will always find it.”
In addition to her boutique’s web presence, Taiger also regularly sends customers updates on the store via e-mail. Her subscription list boasts more than 900 customers.
“We always gather as much information about our clients as we can, including e-mail addresses,” she adds.
Tailored to Clientele
|Participating in local charity events, such as this Walk-a-thon held in Montreal, is a great way to meet and support those who live and shop in the community.|
To accommodate the French- and English-speaking population of Canada, Taiger developed a multilingual site. Most pet stores in North America have English-only websites, Taiger says.
“If you Google dog sites in French, you’ll most likely get a dog store in France,” she explains. “We’re probably the only local store that you’ll find.”
Having a multilingual website allows customers the ability to purchase items online in the language they are most comfortable with, Taiger says. Being accommodating has paid off for Poochey Couture: “We get orders from all over Canada,” she adds.
The shop also custom orders products for clients. Customers make a deposit and Taiger orders the item. Oftentimes, Taiger places a larger order than requested to see if the item grabs the attention of her other customers.
“This is how I’ve found some of our most popular items,” Taiger notes.
Helping Make Canada More Dog Friendly
Canadian anti-cruelty laws do not go far enough, reports Heidi Taiger, owner of Poochey Couture in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Punishment for running a puppy mill is not severe enough to deter individuals from operating them, she adds.
“Someone running a puppy mill may get 300 hours of community service,” she says.
Taiger has decided to combat this issue on two fronts: First, by lobbying the Canadian government for stricter anti-cruelty laws; and second, by organizing clothing and accessory drives for the local chapter of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which takes in many of the animals rescued from backyard breeders.
In addition, Taiger has made it her mission to create a more dog-friendly atmosphere in her city. She wants to make it possible for people in Montreal to take their pets into stores and restaurants.
“Dogs around here are frowned upon, you cannot take them with you shopping or into restaurants,” she explains. “But dogs are becoming part of the family and we need to be more open to allowing them in.”
Working through the red tape has been quite a challenge—the issue rests not with local, but with federal government, Taiger notes—but she is optimistic that it will be resolved positively.
“Eventually I think it’s all going to work out, but it will take some time,” she says.
Events at the store have also evolved from the needs and wants of customers. When Taiger learned that customers were holding play dates at each other’s houses, she offered the store as an easy place to get together. Poochey Couture now hosts monthly breed-specific play dates throughout the winter.
Other store events include birthday parties and parties during major holidays, including Halloween, Valentine’s Day and Christmas.
The store also has become involved with already-established events, such as fashion shows, charity events, television programs and print ads.
“For my customers, it’s not just about shopping,” Taiger reports, “it’s a social event.”
Thinking back on the past two years, Taiger remarks that owning a business has given her a new—and better—understanding of the term “full-time job.”
“Having a business is a 24/7 job,” she says. “There’s always something to improve and to expand—and you’re always looking out for what’s new.”
Yet the long hours are worth it, she adds.
“All the work you put into it, customers appreciate that,” Taiger notes.
Looking to the future, nothing is off the table for Poochey Couture, Taiger reports, including the addition of more locations, possibly in Quebec City or Alberta, or one super location boasting a high-end boutique, groomer, veterinary services and dog daycare.
“The sky’s the limit,” Taiger exclaims. <HOME>
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