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A Spot for Man’s Best Friend

Retailers are adding doghouses as a customer amenity
Photograph courtesy of Zupan’s Market

Retailers have long known that for many of their customers, their pet is not just an animal but rather another member of the family. And that includes wanting to include Fido in family grocery shopping trips. Dogs and food stores, however, do not make the best of marriages.

To help elevate their pet-friendly policies while also maintaining health code regulations, many retailers are opting to install doghouses outside the store. These high-tech units meet the needs of the dog, the owner and the retailer, as well as other customers who might not be as dog-friendly.

One company offering the service is DogSpot, which has app-connected doghouses that are lockable, self-sanitizing, monitored by camera and temperature-controlled. The units also have heated floors that keep the space warm in colder months as well as air-conditioning for the warmer months.

“We don't want any member of the family to feel left out, which is why we could not be more excited to introduce DogSpot’s high-tech houses, sharing a safe and secure solution for our food-loving customers shopping with Fido,” said Mike Zupan, president and CEO of Portland, Ore.-based Zupan’s Markets. Zupan’s added the doghouses at all three of its locations in Portland and Lake Oswego, Ore., earlier this year.

With two-thirds of Americans owning a pet and more than 63% of them owning a dog, making Fido happy is big business: Pet parents will spend an estimated $75.4 billion on their “fur babies” this year, according to the American Pet Products Association, Stamford, Conn.

Women are more likely to own a pet, with 58% of females owning at least one pet compared to 49% of men, according to a study by furniture company Joybird, Los Angeles. Men, however, are 1.5 times more likely than women to spend $100 on their pets in one month. Meanwhile, nearly 18% of people said they spend at least $100 on their pets per month, but people ages 18 to 24 and 55 to 64 were more likely than any other group to spend $21-$50 on their pets.

With DogSpot, customers can reserve a spot in the doghouses through the app up to 15 minutes before they arrive or reserve an open one when they arrive at the store. The houses lock to allow only the customer’s account access to the house while their dog is inside, ensuring the dog’s safety while the customer shops. Vet-grade UVC lights sanitize the houses between each session.

The houses cost 30 cents a minute to use, and many retailers offer a promo code making the first 60 minutes free. Retailers across the country are adding the houses, including Albertsons, Kroger, Stop & Shop, Dave’s Markets, Family Fare (SpartanNash) and Meijer.

“QFC is leading the way in new innovations that span health, fitness and fresh food, and now we’re proud to pioneer DogSpot because it enables us to champion our four-footed community as well,” Suzy Monford, president of Bellevue, Wash.-based QFC, a subsidiary of Kroger, said in a press release. “Our primary goal is to offer a friendly, uplifting shopping experience for all of our customers, no matter their situation. These DogSpot houses at our stores will offer a safe and comfortable shelter for our customers’ dogs and eliminate a barrier to shopping that pet owners often run up against.”

Zupan’s Markets even found an advertising partner for the doghouses: Portland Pet Food Co. in Oregon.

“We are thrilled to be the first partner for DogSpot at Zupan’s,” said Kate McCarron, founder of Portland Pet Food. “We appreciate and share Zupan’s and DogSpot’s commitment to the safety and health of dogs. These high-tech houses are a great alternative to tying up a dog outside the store or leaving your dog in a car.”

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