For doting pet parents, the best isn’t good enough. They want greener toys, healthier supplements and more organic supplies, and they’ll shell out the dough for them.
Ninety-one percent of pet owners consider their animals part of the family, according to a recent online poll by Packaged Facts, a market research firm in Rockville, Md., and nationwide sales reflect that. Sales of non-food natural and organic pet supplies increased 107 percent, to $356 billion, between 2004 and 2009, with revenues expected to reach $885 million in 2014, according to Packaged Facts.
Adding supplements, bedding, kitty litter, toys, grooming products, leashes and other non-food supplies to your pet aisle may sound like a sure thing, but merchandising them can be tricky. “Quality dog food, for most pet owners, is a necessity. This expense is already in their budget,” says Darcie Brault, assistant brand manager for Pet Naturals, an Essex Junction, Vt.-based manufacturer of natural pet vitamins and supplements. “Non-food items require more merchandising effort in order to see the movement that stores are looking for.”
Use these five tips to keep Fido and Kitty’s family coming back for more.
1 | Think location, location, location. Since most customers are already at your store for dog or cat food, don’t make the kibble the first thing they see. Put it in the back of the store or pet section so customers must walk through the tempting non-food items first. By placing current, seasonal pet section items in their path, you’ll entice shoppers to spoil their furry family members.
At Chalfont, Pa.-based pet store Cutter’s Mill, manager Rich Golden uses themed endcap and counter displays—think bath products or outdoor toys—to highlight non-food items. “You want to create visually appealing displays of product that customers need to buy but may not know they need to buy,” he says.
2 | Be smart with your supplements. Bright toys and technical dog gear easily catch the eye. Not so with supplements. Keep these products at eye level and organized by purpose or condition, says Brault, and offer a limited selection. “It can be very confusing for consumers when they are bombarded with choices,” she says. Instead, do your research and offer two or three high-quality lines. The National Animal Supplement Council is a good resource to find the latest research and regulations. Another surefire way to sell supplements? Samples. “Most pet owners are not going to stay on top of a supplement routine if their animals do not gladly take the supplements,” says Brault.
3 | Consider your neighbor. Your food-to-toy ratio should depend, in part, on how close you are to a natural pet specialty store. If you have nearby competition, Brault recommends that the majority of your non-food pet offerings be toys, treats and supplements—small items that customers can throw into the cart as an extra bonus for their animals. On the other hand, she says, some natural foods stores are a one-stop shop for groceries as well as pet foods, in which case you should designate half of your pet section for food and half for non-food items.
4 | Educate your customers. Your team members should be able to knowledgeably answer questions about pet products, particularly those dealing with a product’s health and/or environmental benefits. Golden’s staff attends regular product trainings to stay on top of this information. Brault suggests holding a vendor day, perhaps in conjunction with a fundraiser for your local animal shelter, during which representatives from different companies can come to your store and answer your customers’ and employees’ product questions.
5 | Change things up. Frequently rotate your non-food offerings and displays. “If your store stays stagnant, then people will just come in, get their dog food and go,” says Golden, without lingering to check out the rest of your stock.