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Quality Counts

When it comes to feeding and watering systems, dog owners seek quality, easy-to-use products.


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As with so many other products, dog owners are being choosier about the feeding and watering systems they’re selecting for their pets. As a result, they are looking for better-quality products that are convenient and suit their tasks.

“Pet parents want ease of use, easy cleaning and products that will look good in their home,” said Bruce J. Flantzer, North American director for sales and marketing for Moderna in Gaffney, S.C. “Many are looking for systems that will give long-term feeding and watering, so they will not always have to continue to add food and water.”

In addition, dog owners seek well-designed products that offer them the opportunity to connect with their pet, said Guylaine Galland, business development manager for Eyenimal, a French brand with U.S. headquarters in New York. “Pet parents are looking for a connection with their animal and enhanced communication.”

Pet owners are also paying closer attention to material—and if a product is dishwasher safe, it is an added bonus. Safety is a big factor, said Samantha Henson, merchandising manager at Premier Pet Supply, which has stores in Michigan. As a result, Premier Pet Supply vets its feeding and watering products carefully, sells less plastic and pays attention to products with antimicrobial properties.

“Consumers are realizing the importance of better material in their feeders and their water fountains,” agreed Shannon Supanich, marketing manager for Pioneer Pet Products in Cedarburg, Wis. “For example, stainless steel and ceramic are better at keeping bacteria out.”

No matter what, it seems that specialty items are the biggest sellers. Aquila Brown, owner of The Yuppy Puppy in Spokane, Wash., said that traditional food and water bowls take up space and do not sell. She said that as dog owners become more educated, they want something better for their pets.

“Being a specialty, education-focused shop, we sell a lot of fountains,” she said. “Travel water bottles and bowls are also big movers for us.”

Merchandising

Displayed to Sell

Feeding and watering systems can take up space in the store, so it’s important that independent pet specialty retailers focus on using display space as wisely as possible, industry participants said.

Samantha Henson, merchandising manager at Premier Pet Supply, which has stores in Michigan, said that it can be easy for an item such as a water fountain to get hidden away if it’s in a box tucked under a shelf. That’s why a few times a year the retailer dedicates an endcap to these products.

“We have power running to our endcaps, so we’ll get them set up with the water flowing,” Henson said. “Once people hear the water and see how they work, they sell a lot easier. We might sell 15 each week [with this display].”

It’s also important to display products at eye level whenever possible, said Guylaine Galland, business development manager for Eyenimal, a French brand with U.S. headquarters in New York. Galland agreed that showing how the products work is a great way to introduce items to shoppers.

Bruce J. Flantzer, North American director for sales and marketing for Moderna in Gaffney, S.C., said he has seen retailers succeed in moving product when they place feeding and watering systems in the dog food aisle.

“In my travels, one very smart retailer put a 4-foot section of dog bowls and watering products in the middle of his dog food section,” Flantzer said. “He said he was making it easier to buy. It was convenient for the shopper to buy the food and the bowl when it was all in the same place. He also used a ‘buy a bag of food and get 50 percent off a new style or selection of bowls or watering systems’ deal.”

Consumer Education

Bowl Them Over

While there’s no doubt that consumers are a lot more informed and care about quality these days, pet specialty retailers still need to offer educational guidance when it comes to feeding and watering systems.

Samantha Henson, merchandising manager at Premier Pet Supply, which has stores in Michigan, said plenty of shoppers come in looking for a cheap bowl—and she takes the opportunity to educate them on why it’s worth investing in something nicer.

“For the customer that is asking why we don’t have a cheap $5 plastic bowl, I’ll explain that it can harbor bacteria,” Henson said. “Dogs cannot wipe their chin, and they can actually get bacteria to build up and break out with skin problems. Of course, even the nicest stainless-steel bowl still needs to be regularly washed, so there’s an important education opportunity to remind customers to keep their bowls clean.”

Shannon Supanich, marketing manager for Pioneer Pet Products in Cedarburg, Wis., stressed the importance of retailers being in the know so that they can help educate shoppers.

“If your employees are educated and excited about products, that will show when they are speaking to customers,” she said. “Social media can also be a great educational tool.”

Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has two locations in Bend, Ore., said everyone wins when retailers are able to offer their customers a range of feeding and watering solutions and ideas.

“Sometimes we may have something in the store, but our success comes from our staff knowing what other items we can order in, pulling those items up and getting the customer to visually approve with a ‘yes,’” McCohan said. “We also have cards to hand out if customers are looking for something that a local craftsman woodworker can assist with—such as a wood box to fit very specific dimensions. Sometimes we do send customers that route.”

When it comes to specific customer needs, Henson added that many of her customers are concerned about ruining their hardwood floor with food or water. As a result, they might buy supporting products such as mats to keep food and water off the floor. Premier Pet Supply has also had success with bowls that can suction to the floor so that they do not move around or spill, Henson said.

Another key to maximizing sales in the category is knowing what’s new on the market and being able to share those details with consumers.

Bruce J. Flantzer, North American director for sales and marketing for Moderna in Gaffney, S.C., said the company has introduced a gravity feed product called Tasty, which can be used
for either food or water, making it easier for pet owners—and the retailer, in that they only
have to carry one SKU for a product that does more than one thing.

In addition, Pioneer Pet Products in Cedarburg, Wis., will release a new fountain later
this spring.

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