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How to Unleash Pet Lovers' Spending

Stocks in this article: GPSHOGHD

That's especially important considering that nontraditional pet-product stores are getting into the mix, including: Old Navy (GPS), Paul Mitchell, Omaha Steaks, Harley Davidson (HOG) and Home Depot (HD), the association says.

Mark Van Wye, chief operating officer of Zoom Room, a dog training and agility franchise, says pet entrepreneurs need to be cautious in assuming just any idea will succeed in the pet market.

"You have to look a little bit within the industry to specific areas" including such straightforward services as dog grooming, he says. "As long as you're long offering evergreen services and products, you don't have to worry."

While Zoom Room hosts events such as dog birthday parties, breed meet-up groups and fundraising events, Van Wye says the company caters to "everyday pet owners who want their pets to get exercise and better training. It's something really affordable; people can do it with their kids or significant others."

John Nolan, president of Core Marketing and adjunct professor at Pepperdine University's Graziadio School of Business and Management, says pet entrepreneurs should conduct feasibility studies on their product or service before investing money and time into this already crowded segment.

"The feasibility study should entail a comprehensive competitive analysis of all existing competitors. You must know their products, features, benefits, pricing and marketing. In a nutshell -- everything about them," Nolan says.

Paul Mann, CEO of Fetch! Pet Care didn't have to reinvent the wheel to be successful in the pet industry.

He started the pet sitting and dog walking franchise in 2002 after he realized that while there was huge demand for the service, "the problem was with all these pet sitters, they didn't have the full background in marketing, legal, customer service and have the systems in place to run their business professionally."

It opened the door for opportunity in an already established market. "What we did was streamlined all the processes and procedures," he says.

Fetch! Pet Care has 3,000 sitters on staff and services 1,500 cities and towns in 32 states, Mann says. Customers can find a local sitter online and use the Web to get bookkeeping alerts and report cards, among other things.

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