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Safety First, Sales Next

Merchandising tips for first aid, safety and summer products to keep warm-weather sales sunny.


The weather is heating up, which means that pets and their owners are spending more time outdoors. Having fun with pets goes hand in hand with keeping them safe from the hazards that can come with warmer weather.

Several new products are scheduled to hit the shelves this season, including an all- natural topical remedy, Ditch the Itch by Natural Paws, the first product that the Scottsdale, Ariz., company created based on its existing customers’ requests.

“It relieves itchy skin on contact and works to reduce the inflammation and irritation that causes dogs to scratch and bite themselves,” said founder and president Elyse Horvath. “Ditch the Itch also helps to heal and nourish the skin, so that the itchiness is likely to remain at bay for longer periods, which is especially helpful during allergy season.”

New York-based PawFlex, which produces fur-friendly bandages, has several new products to launch, including a natural shampoo line called Wickedly Potent. Also upcoming is a first aid kit that incorporates the company’s new, all-natural medicine line called I Love You Naturally and its bandages. Customers also should be on the lookout for a toothpaste, a tooth spray cleaner and two new toys called FunStufferz and Tug Attack, said CEO Jennifer DiGrazia.

Earth Heart Inc., a maker of natural aromatherapy products in Dundee, Ill., released Buzz Guard Balm in March, which absorbs into skin and doesn’t melt or run; it contains the company’s proprietary blend of essential oils and was developed to soothe dry skin, scrapes, insect bites and other irritations, said owner Vicki Rae Thorne. She added that customers have reported adding this product to their pets’ first aid kits.

For quick and easy on-the-spot control of minor bleeding caused by clipping nails, docking tails, wing clipping and superficial cuts, MiracleCorp Products in Dayton, Ohio, just launched its Kwik Stop Styptic Gel Swabs, filled with Kwik Stop Gel, and Kwik Tips.

“The Kwik Tips, which are styptic-filled nail caps that come with an easy applicator, are great for at-home use and are also available in a value pack for the professional veterinarian and groomer markets,” said Lori Fouts, vice president of sales management.

The company also has a new line of safety reflective collars for cats and dogs, Fouts said.

Innovacyn in Rialto, Calif., has been focused on improving its Vetericyn Plus formula, said Courtney Mack, marketing communications specialist.

“In recent months, we have successfully increased the shelf life to 24 months on all products,” Mack said. “Our liquid formulation remains effective if freezing occurs, and our Hydrogel formulation has an improved viscosity for better spray coverage.”

The company also released its Vetericyn FoamCare Shampoo, specially designed for pets based on their coat density type, Mack said.


Display Tips

The ability to sample merchandise is an effective selling technique.

“Setting a few bottles aside as testers helps to give the customer ownership of the product,” said Elyse Horvath, founder and president of Natural Paws in Scottsdale, Ariz. “The product can be used on their dog right there in the store to experience the dog’s initial response and see how it is applied.”

Plus, she said, human customers can test Natural Paws on their own skin.

Not every retailer can carry every product in a line, which is why Lori Fouts, vice president of sales management for MiracleCorp Products in Dayton, Ohio, said, “Keep a wide variety of our [reflective] collars on hand or hang them next to a picture of the complete fashion options available so consumers know they have choices.”

Another option for display is to bundle an entire manufacturer line.

“We recommend that Vetericyn products be placed next to one another on the shelf,” said Courtney Mack, marketing specialist with Innovacyn in Rialto, Calif. “All Vetericyn labels are created to work with one another to create an extensive shelf space experience.”

No matter how a product is displayed, the consumer wants something easy to understand, said Vicki Rae Thorne, owner of Earth Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill.

“Point-of-sale material should be easy to read; use pictures or simple text showing how to use the product,” she said.

This was reiterated by Laura Clark, co-owner of Wylie Wagg, which has stores in Virginia and Washington, D.C.

“As with all displays, uses and benefits of featured products should be exceptionally clear,” she said. “Consumers are busy with lots of things competing for their attention while they’re shopping. Highly visible and effective signage is key.”

Retailers also have opportunities to get creative with product placement.

“We create themed displays to draw attention to products within specific categories,” she said. “Additionally, we keep summer products fairly close together on the shelves so that we can up- and cross-sell.”

The stores also have seasonal events that help sell summer products, such as Puppy Pool Parties and Ice Cream Socials in the summer, Clark said.


Setting Apart Items to Sell

Industry insiders agreed that these products should be easy to find and, for the most part, in their own section.

A retailer should have a first aid section and should limit selections to only the top products, said Jennifer DiGrazia, CEO of New York-based PawFlex.

“Pet parents can always get pharmaceutical prescriptions at their vet, but they need their local retailer when they want to choose a safer, kinder, gentler and natural alternative treatment,” she said.

Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products in Pittsburgh, agreed that these products should have their own section and said they should be placed in a “visible location with an interesting and eye-catching display.”

Elyse Horvath, founder and president of Natural Paws in Scottsdale, Ariz., suggested placing this category in an area that is viewable from the point of sale.

“Not everyone knows that they can try safe, natural remedies before spending big at the veterinarian,” Horvath said.


Manufacturer Display and Educational Material

Natural Paws in Scottsdale, Ariz., redesigned its product labels to make it easier for consumers to understand what the products were designed to do.

“Because the look of the products themselves had changed, it was a great opportunity to change the educational materials to match the new look as well,” said founder and president Elyse Horvath. “We created new fliers at that time, with all of the most pertinent information in the forefront, and these became a great resource for my retailers to use with their customers.”

Educational literature provided by the manufacturer and a well-informed staff are crucial, said Jennifer DiGrazia, CEO of PawFlex in New York.

“We provide comprehensive brochures, a laminated size chart and samples for stores to show their customers,” she said. “We also have displays for our First Response Bandage Care Kits.”

Sometimes education can trump visual merchandising displays.

“This category typically does not sell itself,” said Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products in Pittsburgh. “Educating employees on the features and benefits of these products will help them sell more than anything.”

“Our manufacturers have not supplied us with any endcaps or educational materials for first aid, safety or summer products,” said Laura Clark, co-owner of Wylie Wagg in D.C. and Virginia. “Education is, however, critically important. For that reason, we do our own research and make a point to explain each new product in those categories to our team members.”

Innovacyn in Rialto, Calif., is launching a new, limited-edition endcap display called the Wound Care Center.

“This display holds some of our ailment-specific products, including Vetericyn Plus Hot Spot Spray and Ophthalmic Gel,” said Courtney Mack, marketing communications specialist. “It arrives pre-built and stocked with product. Dealers can easily refill the display with 3-ounce or 4-ounce Vetericyn products.

“We also have product-specific marketing supplies to enhance shelf display,” she said. “A colorful logo channel strip paired with a ‘Wound & Skin’ shelf dangler would draw the customer’s eye to the shelf level.”

The company also offers free support to customers, dealers and partners, free in-store or online training, as well as complimentary in-store marketing materials and promotional items such as product-detail shelf danglers, window clings and custom bag stuffers, Mack said.


This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Pet Product News.

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