Pampered pooches dig up massive growth for pet services industry

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Dog walking, pet boarding and animal grooming services were among the fastest growing local industries in Australia during the first half of 2014, according to online business marketplace Oneflare.

Oneflare analysed job requests from more than 40,000 Australian service providers using its site and found Australia is a nation of pet pamperers.

The service with the most growth was dog training, with requests for dog trainers jumping by 981.82% since December last year.

Dog walkers took out the second spot among pet services, with 443.14% growth since the previous quarter, while demand for pet boarding and pet grooming increased by 441% and 264% respectively.

Marcus Lim, founder and chief executive of Oneflare, said in a statement the increase in demand for pet services is not surprising.

“There has been an incredible spike of pet services listing online,” said Lim.

“And we have seen a high uptake of those services by Oneflare customers, which is great news for the pet industry.”

Kenny Sinha, a franchisee for All Home Services Pet Washing, told SmartCompany the growth in demand for pet services can be attributed to Australians loving their furry friends.

“Pets have become family now,” he says. “It’s a lifestyle. You take them around, they travel in cars with you. It’s not just a pet, it’s a family member.”

When Sinha started out in the industry he said he put flyers into people’s letterboxes to spread the word, but he found the returns weren’t “as encouraging” as he would have liked because when he asked clients how they heard of him nearly everyone said it was through the internet.

“The flyers I guess create awareness but to secure more business you have to do it over the internet,” he says.

“I had to look outside the square and try to find something that gave me a bit of an edge. A customer wants services quick and fast and the internet is the way to go.”

Sinha says people’s increasingly busy lives are another reason why he’s seen a growth in business over the past year.

“All they have to do is open their gates and let me hook up my power supply,” he says. “It gives them extra time because they don’t have to do that themselves.”

Tom LeGrice founded a business called PetHomeStay with his wife Bronwyn in 2012. The service allows pet owners to find people in their area who can look after their pets while they are away for a small fee.

“The demand for our service has been over twice what we forecasted when we started out,” LeGrice told SmartCompany.

“Our biggest issue is trying to get enough hosts to satisfy the demand. Also trying to reassure people this is a valid new way of looking after pets. After people use it the first time, they’re hooked.”

LeGrice says technology has made it easier for people to make sure their pet is looked after when they are away from home.

“Traditionally it was a person’s support network that would pick that up,” he says.

“What you’re starting to see with social networking is that it’s very easy to find people in your neighbourhood on a peer-to-peer basis that are happy to look after your pet.”

More than half of Australian households own a pet. And according to the Australian Veterinary Association’s Family Pooch Index, 50% of pet owners buy their dogs gifts for special occasions.

Lim says the take-away message for business owners is the internet can assist smaller operators in connecting with potential customers, helping them achieve rapid growth.

“Small businesses are the cornerstone of the economy and this report indicates an increasing propensity for local businesses to recognise the power of the internet and the increased opportunities it affords to generate leads and improve business growth,” he says.

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Broede Carmody is a former senior reporter at SmartCompany. Previously, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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