Pet Product — News-August 2012-Comp
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Zoom Room Forecasts 50 Units Within Year

With several new agreements signed and more in the pipeline, dog training/indoor dog park franchisor Zoom Room of Los Angeles expects to have at least 50 locations up and running by mid 2013, according to Mark Van Wye, COO.

As of late June, Zoom Room operated 10 locations, including its company-owned flagship in Hollywood and sites in Texas, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado and North Carolina.

A flurry of deals finalized in late spring placed 17 more locations under development, will expand the concept’s footprint in Southern California and will mark its entry into Northern California, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In one of the deals, David Esses and Jesse Simon, who bought the first franchise (the original location was founded by Van Wye’s wife Jaime in Culver City in 2007) in Southern California, signed agreements to open four more locations in the greater Los Angeles area.

“The fact that our very first franchisee in Culver City has signed on with four additional locations is a testament to the ongoing popularity and demand for Zoom Room in California,” Van Wye said. “The fact that we’re moving into Ohio and Pennsylvania shows that our national reach is increasing and word of opportunities with Zoom Room is spreading.”

Moreover, Van Wye expected another dozen or so deals to be signed by the end of summer. Those deals will expand the company into additional markets.

For now, Zoom Room wants to focus on expanding into major markets, including Chicago, New York and Phoenix. In general, a location needs a population of about 100,000 to support it, depending on the local economy and demographics.

Van Wye said he fields about 40 to 90 “solid” leads a month. The company has been turning away prospects from smaller, more rural territories but may eventually develop a “light” model to fit those markets.

The typical Zoom Room generates most of its revenues from services (agility training, obedience classes, parties, events and facility rentals), with between 25 percent and 45 percent, depending on location and size, of its revenues from its retail section.

Van Wye said the company now steers franchises toward higher visibility “main street” locations to boost the retail sales—and service sales. An increase in retail traffic boosts services, he said, adding Zoom Room’s retention rate on the services side of the business (as marked by people that enrolled in additional classes after their initial one) exceeded 90 percent.

Newer service offerings include enrichment classes such as urban herding, which takes place indoors using exercise balls and soccer goals.

“We attract people who want to do things with their dogs,” said Van Wye, who also noted the typical Zoom Room client is well educated, often with post-graduate education. As an operating philosophy, the company requires clients to participate with their dogs and does not plan to ever offer programs that would allow customers to drop off their dogs, according to Van Wye, who said he has held marketing positions with Microsoft, Nintendo and Disney.

The involvement with their dogs, and their willingness to pay a price for a sanitized, orderly place to play with their dogs regardless of weather, also pans out in the retail section, where they are willing to pay for premium, but always functional, merchandise, Van Wye said.

All products sold are solution oriented, he said, such as beds, collars, treats, food and toys. As such, they mesh with services. For example, while a Zoom Room carries Thundershirt calming apparel, it will also offer a “shy dog” class, providing clients with a variety of options for managing fear of lighting, he said.

In addition, retail products generally trend toward eco-friendliness and U.S.- based manufacturing, he said. The company offers its franchises a “very short list of required products and a long list of approved products” for stocking retail sections, he said. For example, life vests for dogs are big sellers in Florida but wouldn’t be in some other markets.

Although franchises cannot stock unapproved products, they can request that corporate evaluate and approve new items.

Zoom Room emphasizes the social aspect of dog ownership in both its offerings and its endeavors, according to Van Wye. For example, it rents facilities to local breed-specific “meet-up” groups so they can have gatherings. Also, for Take Your Dog to Work Day on June 22, six Zoom Rooms hosted happy hour doggie disco events with refreshments for both dogs and people. All proceeds from the $10 admission price were pledged to local animal welfare organizations.