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What have we got to lose?” Mark Kumpf asked his staff at the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center (ARC) in Dayton, Ohio, last year. He was talking about running a Black Friday promotion for shelter pets. The way the ARC director figured it, staff were going to be at the shelter taking care of animals anyway, so why not open the doors and try to capitalize on Black Friday shopping hype?
Rather than open insanely early, like retail stores, the shelter could open at 10 in the morning so that when families were done with the holiday madness, they could make their final stop of the day at the shelter. To get the buzz going, ARC offered super-low adoption fees ($20 for dogs and $10 for cats) and started publicizing the event via Facebook, along with local print and television media. The shelter also relied on its local boosters to generate hype via word-of-mouth—a technique that’s worked well in the past.
The result? “We had a huge line at the door,” Kumpf says. “Folks loved it. … It turned out to be just one big party.” The party went to the next level when Andrew Trick, owner of local pub Lucky’s Taproom & Eatery and longtime supporter of the shelter, stopped by with a big check, saying all adoption fees for the day were on him.
“When you work in an animal shelter, you want to be able to say, ‘Gosh, I ran out of animals!’ We did,” says Kumpf.
Every animal who had been cleared to leave the shelter was adopted that day—37 dogs and cats in total. When the adoptables were all spoken for, people started asking to see animals who weren’t quite ready for prime time, and many put themselves on wait lists for kitties and canines awaiting routine spay/neuter and vaccinations.
Kumpf acknowledges that some shelters are reluctant to run adoption specials, especially on as hectic a day as Black Friday, fearing lots of returns from families with buyer’s remorse. But Kumpf was convinced that wouldn’t be a problem. “People make the decision to go to an animal shelter. It’s not an impulse buy.” He adds that data show that pets adopted as a result of a promotion are no more likely to return to shelters than those adopted otherwise. His experience with the promotion bore that out.
ARC plans to run a Black Friday event again this year, this time looking to partner with local retail establishments. Kumpf says ARC might approach some “big box” stores, asking if they’ll agree to distribute a flier about the promotion to their customers. The shelter also plans to approach local pet supply stores with a cross-promotion of a one-day discount for people who come in with a completed adoption contract—perhaps creating enough of a temptation to get even shop-a-phobics out of the house.