Can Lassie save the mall?
At Yorktown Center in Chicago’s western suburbs, 58 stores have a paw print sticker on their window indicating they’re “pet-friendly.” Every third Thursday each month, the mall hosts a two-hour Yappy Hour to encourage shoppers to bring their dog for activities, food samples, crafts and free ice cream. Outdoor seating at restaurants allow owners to dine with their dogs. Such amenities helped Yorktown Center rank first in BringFido.com’s “Coolest Dog-Friendly Mall.”
Yorktown Center promotes its “dog-friendly” status, but has numerous rules:
- Dogs need to be on leashes, supervised at all times and follow individual store policies;
- Dogs are not allowed to approach other shoppers or dogs unless invited;
- Owners must clean up after their dogs, and their pets aren’t allowed to cause a disturbance.
Yorktown Center writes on its website, “There are certain risks associated with allowing dogs to interact with other people, children and dogs. Owners are legally responsible for the behavior of their dogs. Please help keep Yorktown Center dog-friendly by showing responsible ownership and maintaining well-behaved pets!”
Other indoor and outdoor shopping centers on BringFido.com’s top ten list also offer a variety of costume contests, parades and other themed pet-friendly events. Three of them — Otay Ranch Town Center in Chula Vista, CA; Stony Point Fashion Park in Richmond, VA; and Lee Premium Outlets, Lee, MA — have dog parks. The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey rents out complimentary dog strollers for dogs weighing 20 pounds or less.
In New York City, dogs are welcome in most non-food stores. Some proprietors put out water bowls and offer dog treats. Many states have also passed laws in recent years allowing dogs to join patrons on restaurant and bar patios.
Yorktown Center’s rules underscore the risks. Some of those infractions proved too much for Hillside Shopping Centre, which as of March 1 prohibits dogs. The mall, based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, heard too many complaints from shoppers that owners were bringing their dogs to the food court, where they weren’t allowed, and not picking up after their pets.
- America’s Coolest Pet-Friendly Malls – BringFido
- Dogs Dining on Patios Are Illegal Interlopers No More – Pew
- North Carolina’s Triangle Area: Booming for People and Their Pets! – The Courier
- No dogs allowed: Hillside pulls welcome mat for pets – Times Colonist
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Have the perceptions around dogs in retail settings changed to the point that most people now accept their presence? Should retailers welcome or prohibit dogs?
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16 Comments on "Can Lassie save the mall?"
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Chief Executive Officer, The TSi Company
Many people love dogs, including those that do not have a pet. And many people do not. So having opportunities for pet owners to include their dog in their shopping experience is fine as long as the rules are enforced. Most pet owners will obey and, unfortunately, some will not.
Hopefully those few will not spoil it for everyone else. We continue to move forward as a society accepting many things that years ago were forbidden. Allowing dogs to accompany their owners shopping is excellent and can be a fun experience for both the dog and the dog owner. It’s a great idea, a unique marketing concept, and a fantastic way to enhance the shopping experience. I believe we will see more opportunities for pets to be brought along in retail soon.
Director, Retail Market Insights, Aptos
While (even as a die-hard dog lover) I have mixed feelings about bringing dogs to the mall, I recognize my reservations are swimming against the tide. As such, I think mall operators should carefully examine their liability insurance policies and get in the doggone game and give the people want they want!
I don’t have a problem with a dog here or there but I don’t see why everyone needs to bring their dog shopping with them. It increases several risks: the risk of slip and fall accidents, reactions by customers that are allergic, problems for customers that are afraid of dogs, flea infestation, and even potential dog bites. Service dogs are highly trained, the average person’s dog is not.
Director, Retail Market Insights, Aptos
These are my reservations, too, Casey, but I sense it may become a competitive issue for malls that don’t have special dog days … hence my suggestion to update liability policies. But as you say, that is really only the beginning of the challenges!
Global Retail & CPG Sales Strategist, IBM
The majority of shoppers seem to accept dogs (and other animals) in stores. A pet-friendly policy also is a mostly positive move. The main challenge is to have staff on hand who are trained to handle issues as they happen.
Founder, President, Bakertown Consulting
Most people feel their dogs are part of their family, so retailers should embrace this concept where appropriate. It’s another way to put the customer first in determining company policy. Customers do need to be responsible for their dogs while in-store and should consider the dogs’ behavior prior to bringing them along on a shopping trip!
Managing Director, StoreStream Metrics, LLC
If Lassie can save Timmie — who’s trapped in the well — Lassie can certainly help malls. People and their dogs are barking for their experiences together. Here in Minneapolis, micro-breweries seem to be leading the trend. I recently visited a restaurant that had a “pawtio” for dogs and their owners. If that’s what your customers want, and this is what makes them cross your threshold, then put out the bowl, biscuits, and bags!
President, b2b Solutions, LLC
Using Yorktown’s approach of having “event” days once a month when pets are welcome makes it special for dog owners. This approach is far more likely to encourage obeying the rules than if dogs were allowed every day. That appears to be what happened at the Hillside Shopping Center. I like dogs but certainly would not want to shop in stores where their behavior is not properly controlled.
Principal, KIZER & BENDER Speaking
There was a study a number of years ago that found women spend more time choosing a gift for their pet than they do for their spouse or significant other. People treat their pets like kids, they are important members of the family. Our local town center became dog friendly last year and it doesn’t seem like it’s been a big deal. And indie retailers are well known for having store pups and cats.
But as much as some shoppers love their pets, other shoppers are terrified of them. It’s a fine line. Dogs can be unpredictable, but so can their owners. There’s no guarantee that the dogs are trained or the owners are responsible enough to clean up after them. Costume contests and parades are great, but let’s see how everyday shopping with your dog plays out.
Professor, International Business, Guizhou University of Finance & Economics and University of Sanya, China.
Pet friendly policies are certainly a positive. But let’s list them as something “nice” — hardly a savior for malls. What is needed to save the malls goes well beyond being pet friendly. Few people seem to be addressing why people go to malls these days, or why they don’t.
Well if we can have adult beverages at the mall, why not dogs? I think there has to be strict rules in place in order to make this successful.
Chief Amazement Officer, Shepard Presentations, LLC
More and more, people are taking their pets out with them. This is no longer a trend, but is the norm. Those that have a pet-friendly policy will connect with a large community of animal lovers. That said, pet owners must act responsibly and take responsibility for their pet (and its actions).
Director of Partnerships, Operations, and Legal, MarketDial
Millennials are having fewer kids and adopting more dogs. Catering to dog lovers — at least one night a week for a Yappy Hour — I suspect is an excellent strategy for reinvigorating American malls, especially outdoor ones. I’d love to see the data from some A/B tests on this.
CEO of Envirosell Inc., Speaker, NY Times Best-Selling Author
In NYC it is a health code violation to bring your pet into a retail location that sells food — the supermarket, the drug store, the corner deli or a restaurant. No fine to the person with the pet, but to the store/restaurant manager. Yes, if the dog has a ADA tag it’s allowed. That said, veterans groups are angry that ADA is being used by pet owners to take their animals into stores, airports and onto airplanes — when the ADA was meant to assist those who had served their country and paid a price.
CFO, Weisner Steel
Wow! After reading the comments, I fear any remark I offer will seem curmudgeonly, so let me just say this:
Let’s ask an actual mall manager who will have to deal with the “theory-vs.-reality” thing and see what they have to say. (I suspect their enthusiasm will be less.)
Well, it IS interesting — but what do they say? “A drowning man pulls on his own hair.”