The Pup Up Café is back with its barking fun Christmas extravaganza
Christmas isn’t just for humans you know! With 16.2 million of UK households owning a pet, it’s safe to say that our pooches and felines are truly part of the family and are rightly spoilt during the festive season.
But how do you help your doggo celebrate Christmas in style? Bionic caught up with The Pup Up Café's owner Marcus Ackford. He’s gearing up to hit the road this weekend for their 2023 Christmas tour.
The first event takes place in Harrogate this Saturday, where 50 dachshunds clad in their festive finery will mingle at a dog-safe venue during the morning event, then the floor is open to any breed in the afternoon. But humans without a pooch are welcome to purchase tickets too. So, if you’d be in your element surrounded by pups dressed in Christmas jumpers then why not head to The Pup Up Cafe's website to nab your place?
Dachshund through December
Bionic last chatted to Marcus back in 2022 when he gave us the lowdown on his unique business. For anyone unfamiliar, The Pup Up Café tours the UK putting on dog-safe events specific to smaller breeds like dachshunds, pomeranians, pugs and French bulldogs.
The meet ups offer puppuccinos galore (a doggy favourite consisting of whipped cream topped with a treat), fun photo opportunities, small businesses selling festive goods as well as a chance for your dog to mingle and meet with their own breed. There will be safe off the lead time as well as food and drink stalls for owners to enjoy.
Although every Pup Up Café event is special in its own way, it’s the Christmas meet ups Marcus really looks forward to. He enjoys spreading a bit of Christmas cheer to dogs all over the country. But Bionic wanted to uncover the inspiration behind the concept.
“I’d love to say there’s a big, special reason we decided to do the Christmas events, but it’s actually just that we love Christmas!” Marcus laughs when we quiz him “There’s so many outfits for dogs around Christmas-time and we love seeing them running around all dressed up.”
He continues “We actually did a Christmas event in our first year, back in 2018 and it was a ‘Dashing Dachshund’ event. Obviously throughout Covid we were unable to put on any events, but we were back planning Christmas meet ups as soon as we were able to.”
The Pup Up Café puts on regular events throughout the year, they tour around October to celebrate Halloween and even put on their first doggy festival back in the summer. But how do the festive pop ups differ to the Halloween or Summer events? Does Christmas take a little more planning?
“Yeah, the Christmas events take more planning” Marcus answers “We order lots of additional props. I’d say Christmas is the biggest of all our events, so we really go all out, we have sleighs and big Santas, the lot!”
The Christmas events boast festive doggy props, prizes for best dressed pups, lots of toys to keep them occupied and tons of Christmas treats. There’s even a professional photographer roaming and snapping great pictures of your dogs in action plus a Christmas present for every pooch.
Building a close community
And what about customers? Does Marcus see the same owners and pups each year? He says it’s a mix but he’s enjoyed building the brand and seeing the business grow organically over the years.
“I’d say around 50% of people come back after their first visit." He tells us, grinning "We have a really nice community now. We’re based in Devon but we’ve made friends with so many dogs and owners from all over the country over the years. A few of them have even come to stay at our house, so it’s like we’ve created our own little community.”
“We chat to a lot of the owners on a regular basis and let them know if we’re planning on hosting an event near them.” He adds.
And what's the best part of being part of such a tight knit community? Marcus says seeing owners make friends with each other and build strong relationships that develop outside the events is always great to see.
“The community aspect is really nice, we have lots of owners who used to come on their own with their dogs but have now made friends at our events, so they now come together as a big group. They’ll meet up separately and go on dog walks. It’s so nice to encourage things like that.” He tells us. "Or we have people who used to come to events without dogs but now have their own that they bring along."
Bionic was keen to understand if Marcus was facing roadblocks due to the cost-of-living crisis, has he noticed it affecting event sales this year? He agreed that he has seen changes, but he's now more mindful about supplier costs.
“Except for Covid, we’ve seen pretty steady growth since we started.” He tells us “Obviously with the cost of living increasing this year, we’ve seen a slight drop in people coming to events. I think experiences are always one of the first things to go, which is sad because it’s great for people to go and do something they enjoy to get away from their stresses. But bills come first.”
“But we’ve definitely had to change a few things over the last year” He says “We now have to really think about supplier costs, because if they put their prices up then we have to as well.”
He adds “We always have to work hard to save as much as possible. We had to change the supplier we’d been using for our puppuccinos recently because they’d raised their prices. It’s sad because we’d been using them for years, but it really just comes down to cost.”
And finally, what does Marcus think is the best thing about Christmas for the pups in our lives? Is it the special treats, the fuss from family or just getting into mischief tearing apart all the discarded wrapping paper?
“I’d say for our dog it’s seeing everyone in one room.” Marcus decides “Christmas is the only time the whole family really gets together for more than a couple of hours. So, he’s in his element, seeing all his favourite people all at once."
You can check out The Pup Up Café and see where your local event is by heading to their website or visiting their Facebook or Instagram page. They are touring throughout November and December, finishing on December 18 in Leeds.
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