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Spread the Joy of Pet Toys

Ensuring your store offers a plethora of playthings for all species and ages of pets helps reduce boredom, channel energy and provide the perfect bonding tools for pet and owner.


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Real dogs love their stuffed animals as much as human children do. While durable toys are always in demand, plush toys also are very popular, along with interactive toys.

Petmate teamed with Miranda Lambert’s MuttNation to launch the MuttNation Treat Guitar, Rescue Mutts Plush Toys and Faux Suede Animals this summer. In another partnership, the Arlington, Texas-based company also will release WWE Superstar rubber dog toys and large tug toys. And for cats, developed with Jackson Galaxy of Animal Planet, new toys include the Air Prey Wand and the Vault Marinater. The company also plans to expand its Chuckit and Hol-ee toy lines.

Emerald Pet Products recently launched a new line of durable plush toys for dogs called Snug n’ Tug toys. They are lined with double-stitched seams.

“All of our characters are barnyard-themed, which makes them really popular with farm and feed stores,” said Glenn Novotny, vice president of sales and marketing for the Walnut Creek, Calif., company.

Cycle Dog-Earth Friendly Pet Co. has expanded its line of toys with the launch of Fuzzies: soft, sewn toys that are eco-friendly, said Lanette Fidrych, founder and president of the Portland, Ore., company.

“As a sewn toy, the pattern scraps are stuffed inside the toy along with the Ecofill, creating a zero-waste product,” she said, adding that it’s soft on dog teeth and gums.

Fluff & Tuff releases about 10 new styles of its ultra-plush dog toys each season.

“We do so to help our retailers keep their displays fresh and interesting to their repeat customers,” said Ellen Lawson, founder and president of the Troy, Mich., company.

Caitec Corp. in Baltimore just launched four new interactive dog toys: the Giggle Treat Ball, the Gumball, The Handle Ball and the Solid Tennis Ball.

Joe’s Pet Depot in Rock Springs, Wyo., sells a large variety of Kong products, including the Kong Cruncheez Barnyard line, which make a crunching rather than a squeaking sound, as well as new Durasoft toys, which are made of dual materials for varied textures and bounce and squeak, said owner Joe Seneshale.

“Interactive” is the buzzword of the moment, particularly with toys that do not require their owner’s involvement, said Megan Davis, manager of Paws Applause in Scarborough, Maine, and Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products in Pittsburgh. 

“For cats, owners have been purchasing toys that attach to doorknobs or that run on a motor,” Davis said.

For feathered friends, Greenfeather Bird Supply released the UpCycle series of enriching bird toys using recyclable wood parts materials, making them a “whimsical beak enticement,” said Dena Tucker, owner of the West Hartford, Conn., company.

 

Display the Fun

With the mesmerizing variety of toys on the market, retailers can find some pretty creative ways to display their stock.

“Something eye catching and different to do is color blocking,” said Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products in Pittsburgh. “This technique allows you to display different categories together by color.”

Be careful of placement, particularly when it comes to dog toys, said Megan Davis, manager of Paws Applause in Scarborough, Maine, who advises that toys are kept at least 12 inches above the ground.

“Dogs love to mark, and it’s impossible to sell or return damaged goods,” she said.

 “We use endcap displays to feature new items, seasonal items, sale items or high-moving items,” said Joe Seneshale, owner of Joe’s Pet Depot in Rock Springs, Wyo. “We change these endcaps monthly to expose our customers to many different products.”

“We prefer to have our everyday collections supplemented with a rotating/seasonal theme, which allows us to keep things new and fresh without overcommitting to too many SKUs at once,” said Janene Zakrajsek, owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has stores in Southern California. “We merchandise a variety of toy types to tell a ‘story,’ which can include, rope, plush, rubber, wool or other specialty toys.”

“We recommend segmenting by type (rubber or sewn styles) and manufacturer,” said Lanette Fidrych, founder and president of Cycle Dog-Earth Friendly Pet Co. in Portland, Ore. “It always helps to create separate areas by company to help tell a story.”

Cross-selling by merchandising toys with treats is one way to increase the market basket, said Glenn Novotny, vice president of sales and marketing for Emerald Pet Products in Walnut Creek, Calif.

“Many customers get in the habit of buying one category and forgetting to shop other departments,” he said. “Building a display of matching treats and toys provides a great opportunity for the store to engage in a conversation with their customer.”

Another effective strategy is to display toys close to the checkout for impulse sales, said both Davis and Terry Gao, founder of Caitec Corp. in Baltimore.

If a store carries live animals, putting toys in cages is a great way to demonstrate the products, said Dena Tucker, owner of Greenfeather Bird Supply in West Hartford, Conn.

 

Setting Toys Apart to Sell

Many retailers categorize toys by species, but myriad other distinctions can be made within the toy category.

Is the pet a snuggler? A tugger?

“Most consumers shop by how their dog interacts with toys in general,” said Glenn Novotny, vice president of sales and marketing for Emerald Pet Products in Walnut Creek, Calif. “Merchandising by durability works very well.”

Ellen Lawson, founder and president of Fluff & Tuff in Troy, Mich., said that separating toys by type (chew toys, balls, plush, etc.) simplifies choices for the customer.

“Within those types, keep a brand displayed together,” she said. “It makes it easier for the customer to find or for an employee to show the customer. It gives a more cohesive look, as well.”

Healthy Pet Products in Pittsburgh shares a similar philosophy.

“I create a toy department in my stores, and within the department I have them grouped either by brand or type,” said owner Toni Shelaske. “Either is totally acceptable in merchandising as long as you are making a statement with your products.”

Emilye Schmale, senior marketing manager for Petmate in Arlington, Texas, said that brand blocks helps build brand loyalty. She also recommends merchandising “like” toys together, such as balls. Less common is to merchandise by size of species.

But what should catch the consumer’s eye—food or toys? Dena Tucker, owner of Greenfeather Bird Supply in West Hartford, Conn., said toys should come first “because the customer needs the food, and with this placement, the customer needs to pass the toys on their way.”

For birds specifically, she recommends separating toys for size or bird rather than by type.

 

New Displays/Educational Materials

Manufacturers often provide merchandising aids, with everything from display racks to signs. Some of these materials are designed to cross-sell with other company products.

For example, Snug n’ Tug toys, the newest product line from Emerald Pet Products, can be displayed alongside the Twizzies display rack, said Glenn Novotny, vice president of sales and marketing for the Walnut Creek, Calif., company.

Caitec Corp. in Baltimore provides a permanent wooden display that can be restocked for its Hero line of dog toys. Petmate in Arlington, Texas, offers dump bins, shippers and power panels for some of its new lines.

“Each one of our retailers has their own unique layout, so we offer to work with them to create signage to fit in their store,” said Ellen Lawson, founder and president of Fluff & Tuff in Troy, Mich. “Whether it is our logo or library of lifestyle images, we can tailor them to fit their unique space. The branding is cohesive, but the ability to make them unique within each retailer keeps the displays unique to each store.”

Retailers are grateful for manufacturers’ help, including Toni Shelaske, owner of Healthy Pet Products in Pittsburgh.

“Manufacturers are definitely making it easier for retailers to display their products,” Shelaske said. “I’m seeing a lot of planograms accompanying the product. Retailers appreciate this; not all of us have that visual eye. The same goes for educational materials and signage. The customer can do a little reading in the store if we are busy with other customers.”

 

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

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