Miami-based Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming, a leading pet service franchise brand in the U.S., is expanding into Canada with its first store opening in the coming months in the Greater Toronto Area.
The company plans to eventually open 200 locations across the country. It currently has 200 locations open or under development in the U.S. offering luxury spa services, gourmet nutrition and premium pet nutrition. Its mission is to be the world’s largest network of neighbourhood pet stores.
The brand was founded in 2007 in Florida originally as a bakery.
“The Canadian culture aligns perfectly with Woof Gang’s values of community, quality and great customer service and we look forward to growing our brand here to meet the demand of the pet ownership industry in the country,” said Alex Macedo, previous Global Brand President for Tim Hortons and current Chairman of Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming.
Ricardo Azevedo, the company’s CEO and former Regional President of Tim Hortons U.S., said the company opened 25 locations last year with 50 stores in the pipeline to open this year.
He said the first Canadian store will open in the Mississauga area. A franchise agreement has been signed. It will open within six months. The company was at the recent Franchise Show in Toronto and the response was overwhelming for the amount of interest in the brand.
“We opened as a bakery and the business started growing and growing and at some point throughout the evolution of the brand (the founder) started doing grooming as well and we became the largest grooming operator in the U.S.,” he said. “So today we have around 170 stores, plus 60 under development and we’re the largest grooming brand in the United States.
“The business today has become very unique. Today, we don’t bake anything in the store anymore. The bakery is still part of our brand, it’s still very much of our name . . . but the reality is that most of our business is really focused on a very spa experience in the grooming area and now in our retail we’re still kind of a pet shop, very, very unique. A feature of our stores is a very boutique experience.”
According to the retailer, from 2020-2022, the pet ownership market in Canada has seen an increase due to the pandemic, with 60 per cent of Canadian households reporting ownership of at least one dog or cat and an increase in the dog population from 7.7 million to 7.9 million dogs (Canadian Animal Health Institute 2022 Pet Population Survey).
Azevedo said the growth of the pet industry in the past couple of years took place both in Canada and the U.S. and across the globe. The trend was happening prior to COVID but the global pandemic really accelerated it. Pet ownership is on the increase. The growth in the industry is driven by the fact that more people have pets and the way people are treating their pets today has changed dramatically, spending more money on them.
He said it’s also an industry that is very resilient through tough economic times.
“Our plan is to expand really fast (in Canada),” said Azevedo. “We’re starting in Ontario. We also see a lot of potential in Vancouver and the West Coast . . . We’re really excited about Canada.
“I think in the beginning we really want to make sure we open at the right locations. Our plan here is to open probably around five to 10 stores this year and then next year grow from 10 to 20 and start growing in the 20-30 stores and in the next four or five years be close to 100 stores. We have a very aggressive plan. We believe we could be close to 200 stores if not more in Canada.”
Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming has been recognized as a top 10 retailer by Pet Business Media and one of the nation’s fastest-growing pet chains by Pet Insight magazine. The franchise also received the Retailer of the Year Franchise Award from Pet Product News, Franchise Times Top 500, and Best Overall Multi-Unit Retailer and Multi-service Excellence Award from Pet Business Media. Woof Gang has become a household name in the more than $124 billion pet industry due to its mission to provide professional pet grooming and high-quality products that enhance the well-being, health, and happiness of beloved animal companions.