Offer Cat Dishes and Mats That Mix With Home Décor
Offer a variety of feeding accessories, from waterers that ensure a fresh drinking supply to dishes and mats in a range of materials and patterns that mix with home décor.
Cat owners are seeking quality, affordability and convenience in feeding accessories. When shopping for a new bowl or feeder, they often want a dishwasher-safe and easy-to-clean bowl that blends fashion and function.
According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey, the most important features to owners selecting a bowl for their cat are price, height of bowl, whether the bowl is nonslip and whether it is dishwasher safe.
“Cat owners are seeking bowls that offer functionality, durability and convenience, but also bowls for food and water that complement the home’s personal style and décor,” said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J. “With a goal of offering bowls to appeal to every pet owner, some [of our] bowl designs are playful and whimsical, while others are in colors and patterns to complement a range of home décor, from exquisite fleur-de-lis and dragonflies to classic argyle.”
Chris Achord, owner of the Cat Shoppe & Dog Store in Nashville, Tenn., said that the store’s primary function is to help cats get adopted, and when they do, staffers recommend some starting items such as ceramic dishes to help welcome the new pet to its home.
“It’s always nice to have a bowl that will look good in the kitchen or wherever you feed your cat,” she said. “Once someone has a bowl, they don’t change out too often, but new pet owners know it’s one of the first things they need to buy.”
Diana Greiner, co-owner of Felix & Oscar in Springfield, Va., said that she sees more people purchasing waterers to give their cats a continuously circulating supply of water.
“Those have done really well for us, and people are more interested in those,” she said. “Also, people are more aware of staying away from plastics and are more into ceramics or stainless steel because plastics can harbor so much bacteria.”
Kelley Parsons, manager of Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said that because plastic bowls can grow bacteria when they develop scratches, ceramic bowls are the most popular at the store.
“The bowls where you have to dig the food out to slow feed are actually pretty popular right now, as are toys that slow feed, which we’re having a hard time keeping in stock,” she said.
Bamboo is one of the hottest trends in the pet industry right now, said Brian Frazier Wright, vice president of The Green Pet Shop in Deerfield, Ill. His company recently released a line of bamboo bowls for cats.
“It’s different, it’s fun, and we can offer bamboo products at a price consistent with products on the market that aren’t made of bamboo,” he said. “Additionally, at a time when our world is becoming more and more environmentally conscious, the ability to offer a sturdy, bamboo bowl for pets—that won’t leach when washed—is an opportunity that continues to excite us.”
Christopher Shipton, vice president of sales and marketing for Toronto-based Jascor Housewares Inc., sees a sense of fashion and function coming together in cat bowls.
“Bowls need to have some fashion sense, as many pets eat in the kitchen, where we all spend most of our time,” he said. “We want it to look good while still performing.”
At this year’s Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., the company introduced Messy Cats, a line of silicone feeders and can covers designed to build off of Jascor’s success with its dog feeding accessories line, Messy Mutts.
“We needed to change the design slightly as we wanted the bowl to be lower and wider so the cat’s whiskers did not come in contact with the sides of the bowls,” Shipton said. “These are functional and stylish.”
When it comes to placemats, Abbey said Loving Pets’ Bella Spill-Proof Mats for Cats are becoming more popular as cat owners are looking for ways to keep spills contained.
Erica Goode, feeding and watering product manager for Petmate in Arlington, Texas, said that the company offers a broad range of feeders and waterers based on consumer insights and advanced trend research.
“Each pet has their own preferred style of drinking, and our continuous research has evolved from traditional water bowls to providing technological solutions, such as fountains that offer filtered flowing water, and stylized feeders and waterers to better suit pet owners’ home décor,” Goode said.
“Taking the latest market and trend research into consideration, Petmate unveiled two new types of feeding and watering [accessories] at Global Pet Expo 2015—Fresh Flow II Fountains and Mason Style Gravity Feeders and Waterers,” she added.
The Fresh Flow II Fountain has a stainless steel appearance and provides a natural flow of fresh water for cats, while the Mason Style Gravity Feeders and Waterers are currently on trend with DIY-style crafting and home décor, Goode said.
|Drive Sales in Feeding Accessories|
While cat owners want U.S.-made products, they often shy away from them due to the price difference, said Diana Greiner, co-owner of Felix & Oscar in Springfield, Va. They also seek dishes that are a little flatter to cater to cats that don’t like the feel of their whiskers on the sides of the bowl, Greiner said.
To better draw attention to these items, Greiner presents them set up like they would be at home, complete with mats and bowls, so consumers can visualize how things go together.
“Once you can see how something might look, it gives you more ideas on how it might look in your house as well,” she said. “We don’t like just stacking everything on top of each other.”
Merchandising products in the right category, proper signage and assembled displays are always key when selling products in stores, but Erica Goode, feeding and watering product manager for Petmate in Arlington, Texas, said that manufacturers can help by playing an active role.
“We constantly strive to design our packaging with product information to help the consumer and the retailer best understand the product,” she said. “This includes full-color pictures, product in use at retail and key informational messaging. In addition, sharing the product information on their websites, as well as directing consumers to petmate.com for more information, are always great ways to assist and educate customers.”
Goode added that it is important for retailers to display assembled and working feeders and waterers, which allows consumers to get a full understanding of how the products might work for them in their home.
“Also be sure that staff members are properly trained on the basic use of the wide variety of feeding and watering products available in the marketplace,” she said. “They must know how to set up, program and clean each style. Additionally, we offer a variety of corrugate displays that provide a secondary location for our products and can help maximize merchandising capabilities of smaller retail spaces.”
The best way to sell more cat bowls is by showing a range of dishes in different colors and displaying them in eye-catching patterns, said Christopher Shipton, vice president of sales and marketing for Toronto-based Jascor Housewares Inc.
Brian Frazier Wright, vice president of The Green Pet Shop in Deerfield, Ill., said the bamboo bowls the company offers should be in the same aisle as the other bowls being sold at the store. However, it pays off to let the consumer know they will be getting a premium, eco-friendly product for a price comparable to a bowl that is not eco-friendly, Wright said.
“We believe there is an increase in demand for bamboo products because our society as a whole is becoming more and more environmentally conscious,” he said. “People want the opportunity to do their part through their purchases, no matter how big or small. Choosing bamboo over, say, plastic or stainless steel allows them to do so.”
Offering an informational handout or a graphic to explain the benefits of bamboo products over traditional stainless steel, plastic or other types of bowls is a great way to enhance the display and increase customers’ awareness of bamboo products, he added.
Loving Pets uses simple packaging to quickly call out key benefits of each bowl to help customers understand the features at a glance, said Eric Abbey, president and founder of the Cranbury, N.J., company.
Because bowls are a must-purchase for any newly adopted kitten or cat, retailers should consider creating a New Cat/New Kitten endcap or section that offers the essentials, including bowls for food and water, Abbey said.
“Help educate staff with key selling points and bowls that offer a blend of each,” Abbey said. “Offer your customers a range of bowl designs—from simple and sturdy to posh and elegant—but note that all can be in an affordable price point.”—KL