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Taking the Bite Out of Flea Season

What retailers need to know about boosting sales of flea and tick products for cats and dogs.


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While flea and tick control is a mainstay category of the pet market, manufacturers continue to offer variations on the way pet owners can protect their pets, as well as their homes and outside areas, from these pesky critters.

Among pet owners’ top demands is that the products they use to prevent and snuff out flea and tick infestations be both safe and effective, and many consumers are looking for natural options.

In the past, flea and tick products containing chemical ingredients such as pyrethrin and permethrins were the norm, said James Brandly, marketing coordinator for TropiClean, based in Wentzville, Mo. Today, the market offers far more options, including products for the home and yard. Responding to the natural trend, TropiClean recently introduced its Natural Flea & Tick line. 

“Our products are safe and effective, and blended with some of nature’s most powerful pest-fighting ingredients for long-lasting effects,” Brandly said. “In 2017, we’ll be introducing our TropiClean Flea & Tick Yard Spray that will cover up to 5,000 square feet.”

Starla Carter, manager at Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., is a big proponent of natural products, and said demand for natural flea and tick products for dogs and cats has been on the rise at the store.

“We’re definitely finding that’s true for treatments in the house,” she said. “A lot of people are turning away from flea bombs and turning to things like boric acid or things like that.”

Jusak Yang Bernhard, co-owner of TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, a Bentley’s Pet Stuff company with locations in Georgia, said that because the weather  in the area does not get too cold for too long, flea and tick products are among the stores’ most popular products.

“Flea and tick products that carry natural ingredients are slowly increasing in sales,” he said. “Some of our popular flea and tick products contain supplements such as essential oils of coconut, lavender and cloves.”

There continues to be an influx of new ingredients used in offerings that claim to be fast acting and as efficacious as traditional products, said Vicky Mann, vice president of innovation and brand development for H&C Animal Health in Parker, Colo. Additionally, she said there will be a rise in products that are cat specific.

Data insights point to savvy consumers seeking more affordable pet products without sacrificing quality—and who are willing to switch channels and/or brands to find a comparable product at a better price. As a result, national brand equivalents (NBE) have taken off in the over-the-counter channel (OTC), said Elizabeth Kroll, category manager, flea and tick for Dublin-based Perrigo Co., with North American operations in Allegan, Mich.

“Developing NBEs is the cornerstone of Perrigo’s heritage,” she said. “As such, Perrigo Animal Health has embraced this trend and is driving vet-quality flea and tick product growth within the OTC channel.” 

Still, many pet owners seek solutions from well-established companies in the flea and tick category. Jeriel Chua, senior brand manager for Advantage and Advantus at Bayer Animal Health, based in Shawnee, Kan., noted pet owners want products that are convenient and that they know will work. That’s why in early 2017, Bayer Animal Health launched Advantus, a soft-chew flea-treatment product for dogs. 

It’s ideal for dog owners who want a product that effectively kills fleas fast,” Chua said. “It’s the first FDA-approved soft-chew flea treatment available without a prescription. Pet owners simply feed the Advantus soft chew to their dogs. It’s safe to give every day, and since it doesn’t get applied to the dog’s skin, there’s no messy residue.”

Manufacturers also are homing in on the particular needs of cats. H&C Animal Health recently released Catego, a flea and tick product made specifically for cats. The product contains the active ingredients dinotefuran, fipronil and pyriproxyfen, and is formulated to kill fleas and ticks within six hours, according to the company.

The More You Know

Jusak Yang Bernhard, co-owner of TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, a Bentley’s Pet Stuff company with locations in Georgia, said it’s important that all of his employees know what the flea and tick products can do. 

“Our staff members understand that explanation is needed regarding the frequency of application that is needed to be effective, specifically for our part of the country,” he said. “For this reason, proper knowledge on these products is important. Our training process starts with our staff. It’s a living and constant process, as changes occur so very quickly in the pet industry.”

One of the services TailsSpin offers is its low-cost vaccine clinic, conducted by local veterinarians. Bernhard said that during these times, the veterinarians have a plethora of information about what’s new in these products, adding to the educational opportunities.

James Brandly, marketing coordinator for TropiClean in Wentzville, Mo., said that to help its retailer partners, the company provides valuable information on all of its products through its Pet Professional Portal.

“Our portal allows retailers and pet professionals to gain access and resources on all of our products,” he said. “The more knowledge a retailer has on a certain product and/or brand, the easier it will be to help assist the consumer.” 

Clearly communicating the product benefits to pet owners is the top priority for Bayer Animal Health, and the company understands that store associates play a large role in that. 

“Bayer has partnered with Experticity to provide training modules so store associates can learn how Bayer products work and how to help pet owners decide which products best suit their needs,” said Jeriel Chua, senior brand manager for the Shawnee, Kan.-based company. “Any retail associate can visit experticity.com/bayer to learn more about Bayer brands and to receive free product after passing a quiz.”

Selling at the Store

Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., has two sections devoted to flea and tick products.

“We have our topicals at the register so they are front and center, and all the other products, like shampoos and carpet treatments, we have over with our grooming supplies,” said Starla Carter, manager at Denny’s. 

Jusak Yang Bernhard, co-owner of TailsSpin Pet Food & Accessories, a Bentley’s Pet Stuff company with locations in Georgia, said the stores host a Yuppy Hour during weekdays, where they feature flea products at discounted prices. 

“Sometimes, we offer coupons, offering discounts during our low-cost vaccine clinics on flea and tick products,” he said. “Through the help of our distributors and manufacturers, sometimes, we can offer coupons through our direct mailing or social media processes.”

To help move product, TropiClean offers retailers a 34-piece display that is bright, vibrant and designed to be noticed. 

“Once the display grabs the attention of the pet parents, our display then educates and presents different solutions,” said James Brandly, marketing coordinator for the Wentzville, Mo.-based company. “Placement of displays and the displays alone can increase basket value.”

Elizabeth Kroll, category manager, flea and tick for Dublin-based Perrigo Co., with North American operations in Allegan, Mich., noted that pet owners frequent retailers to buy pet treats and food, but many of these retailers aren’t able to grow the shopper basket and drive consumers to the flea and tick aisle. 

“Our recommendation is twofold,” she said. “We recommend product placement in secondary locations as an effective way to educate consumers that affordable vet-quality options are available in the flea and tick aisle. The goal is to reinforce that pet parents no longer need to pay vet prices for vet-quality flea and tick protection. We also recommend that retailers allocate planogram space to vet-quality products while incorporating educational signage.”

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