Make The Getaway
Stock your shelves with myriad pet travel merchandise—from totes and carriers to car restraints and calming sprays—to simplify travel for all members of your customers’ families.
What’s a family vacation without the entire family? Pets are family, too, and many owners now plan pet-friendly vacations, which means packing pets (and their accouterments) safely and in style is a top priority for many folks.
Some pets are anxious about travel. To help pets relax in stressful situations, Dundee, Ill.-based Earth Heart makes several varieties of aromatherapy sprays. To increase awareness of this issue and of its products, the company donates to more than 100 nonprofits, many of which promote the human-animal bond as well as pet safety, said founder and co-owner Vicki Rae Thorne.
“We have partnered with bloggers to help bring awareness to their readers about the health benefits of natural remedies for dogs and the human members of their families,” Thorne said. “Earth Heart has also partnered with other manufacturers, offering coupons or products as prizes for promotions on important topics such as first aid or safety awareness, and we are co-authoring articles with some of these same partners.”
Grooming staff and on-site veterinarians at Reber Ranch in Kent, Wash., help raise awareness of travel products—in particular their safety aspects—said Bill Greene, general manager.
“The vets and staff are great about talking with our clients and customers about pet safety travel,” Greene said. “Many people take their pets to the veterinary hospital and grooming salon right before a trip, so it is a very opportune time to educate and help them.”
Greene also uses social media to raise awareness and promote travel products. Reber Ranch’s Travel Safe With Pets promotion led to increased sales of the store’s best-selling brand, he added.
Trying Is Buying
For outdoorsy folks, taking a dog along on a bike ride is heavenly. Dutch Dog Design in Snoqualmie, Wash., manufactures a dog bicycle basket, among other pet travel products. Bicycling with pets already is trending in Europe, although it’s a newer concept in the U.S., said Matthys van Leeuwen, owner and product strategist and designer.
Seeing how products work is important in the pet travel industry, particularly with those products that have buckles or straps, which is why Dutch Dog Design offers a well-illustrated retail box with a clear message that can be used as a POP display, said van Leeuwen.
“For some products we have a how-to-use video, and we’ll be extending this strategy, as it works very well,” van Leeuwen added.You also can boost sales with active demonstrations that allow customers to see and touch products and get a general idea of what products are and what they do.
This philosophy is shared by Howard Bearz, co-owner of The Cheshire Cat & Dog, Too in Cheshire, Conn., who, along with his wife, Heather, has found a creative way to showcase travel products.
“We have stuffed dogs that we place the restraints on for demo purposes,” Bearz said. “If the customer is interested, we then will hook their pet up to the restraint and will demonstrate the product in their vehicle.”
Showcasing travel products can pose space challenges, which is why Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas, is very selective about which travel bags she carries.
“We’ve narrowed our bag selection to airline approved,” Redwine said. “The high-fashion-type bags stopped selling for us three years ago. One way I’ve brought attention to the carrier section is to bring in several colors of the same bag. People think they have more of a choice that way. Plus, they’re attracted to the rainbow of colors.”
Redwine said she is thinking about finding a vintage car bench to display in her store window, complete with a car seat and faux dog in it.
Be sure to show all of the features of travel products, said Andre Van Engers, operations manager for Sturdi Products in Seattle.
“The best way to sell Sturdi Products is to show all the features of each,” Van Engers said. “When a customer can see that Sturdi Products each serve as multipurpose pet products, they become must-haves.”
A retailer gave Earth Heart’s Thorne her best sales tip for selling aromatherapy mists such as calming aids.
“[Use] a product demo and a toy dog to show the prospective customer how to apply the mists to the fingertips and then massage onto the dog’s ear tips,” Thorne said.
No Road Hazards
Using pet travel equipment properly is essential—failure to comply with instructions could lead to injury.
Knowing that an educated staff is valuable to both consumers and manufacturers, Thorne said Earth Heart offers its retail partners product testers and shelf talkers, sales tips and detailed product information sheets explaining how essential oils work, historical significance and results of aromatherapy, use and safety information, testimonials, product reviews and awards.
Retailers work with manufacturers to gain as much product knowledge as possible in order to pass it on to customers.
“We always hand out information on the products we carry,” said Bearz of The Cheshire Cat & Dog, Too. “We talk with the manufacturer to see how the calming aids will interact with animals and how long the effects will last. Once we are fully educated, we then train our sales staff as to the positives and negatives. We also make sure that everyone knows how to use each restraint and how to properly demonstrate them.”
“We are more than willing to help any retailer sell our products, whether it’s reviewing sales techniques over the phone, using our reseller website or providing printed literature,” said Sturdi Products’ Van Engers.
Odyssey Pets’ staff will take a car seat to a customer’s car to ensure that it is installed correctly, Redwine said.
Manufacturers are very helpful with information, and safety tips are placed at the shelf, Reber Ranch’s Greene said.
“This year we will be adding some digital media content in-store—where we will address categories like pet safety, travel, supplements and more,” he added.
What’s the future of the pet travel category?
"In the Northeast, where we have plenty of snow, the market seems to be heading toward simpler restraints. People who have SUVs have a tendency to gravitate toward carriers that they can place in the rear of their vehicle, but most people like things simplified. People don’t have the time for anything that is more than a couple of steps. If they can find a restraint that they can put on and take off in only a few steps, then they are more willing to purchase that item. Make it difficult and [you] lose the customer.”—Howard Bearz, co-owner of The Cheshire Cat & Dog, Too in Cheshire, Conn.
"For the United States, the focus has been primarily on traveling by car, and you see pet safety belts being part of that. We did an initial design and might follow up on this, but our focus is currently on one safe unit (pod) to be used everywhere we travel, whether by car, plane, bike or stroller. We’ll see if this idea is going to be accepted by the consumer and understood that this one safe place is where a pet feels at home, even on the road, and makes your pet comfortable and happy.”—Matthys van Leeuwen, owner and product strategist and designer for Dutch Dog Design in Snoqualmie, Wash.
"Functionality with a little fashion. I’d watch the baby market and see what’s happening, because the dog manufacturers will copy it.”—Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas
"The world is becoming more and more pet friendly. Many retail stores even allow you to bring your pet in while shopping now. I will just say the sky is the limit!”—Andre Van Engers, operations manager for Sturdi Products in Seattle
"As pet owner awareness continues to escalate, the category will continue to grow to include all the calming aids available, which are growing year over year in double digits. Many states have laws on proper pet restraint in a motor vehicle. I believe that this trend will continue, and the category will continue to grow and drive sales and profit for the pet supply retailer.”—Bill Greene, general manager of Reber Ranch in Kent, Wash.