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Answering Nature’s Call

Posted: July 18, 2013, 4:00 p.m. EDT

By Hilary Daninhirsch

Thanks to the laws of nature and the ongoing need to answer its calls, products for picking up after dogs will never become obsolete.

When it comes to helping customers navigate this category filled with choices, Burton Patrick, owner of Pittsburgh-based Burton’s Total Pets, and his staff are happy to provide guidance based on customer interest, but they do not push particular products.

Pick up bags
Courtesy of Cycle Dog Earth Friendly Pet Co.

"Our merchandising strategy is to keep things visible for people, and if they want information, we will give it to them,” Patrick said. "The employees will not ask ‘Can I help you,’ but ‘Can I help you find something?’ We want to find out if they have something in mind; if so, we will go with that.”

Carla Wiza and Donna Klenovich, owner and manager, respectively, of Munchie’s Natural Pet Foods in Oldsmar, Fla., said their staff also is respectful of customers’ purchasing abilities.

"Everyone who shops here wants the best; however, sometimes, the economy limits their purchases,” Wiza said. "We try to make sure they always are getting the best for what they can afford.”

To increase dog waste product sales, Wiza said, "We have a certain section that has all of these particular products. We have them on a roundabout display. We also sell several urine cleaners, one of which displays a toilet with the artificial pee.”

Bags on Board sells the best at Munchie’s, Wiza said, and sometimes the store gets requests for environmentally sound bags.

For providing customers with in-store assistance, Wiza and Klenovich pick up samples when they attend pet expos, read all the literature concerning everything they sell and require employees to do the same. They also display manufacturer-provided signs.

Another in-store merchandising strategy is to move the poop bag products to the front of the store, said Mike Palmer, owner of Premier Pet Products in Beverly Hills, Mich., outside of Detroit.

"The yard-type products essentially sell themselves, but right before spring hits, when the weather breaks and the snow melts, we move them to a more prominent section in the front of the dog accessory aisles as a reminder to people that it’s that time of year,” he said.

Palmer reported seeing another store glue artificial grass on a peg wall to look like grass and hung scoopers on it.

"That was a neat way of merchandising and one of the better displays I’ve seen,” he said.

One of Palmer’s favorite waste-control products is the biodegradable Earth Rated bags, which he keeps at the counter as an impulse buy and where his employees can point out the differences between those bags and regular bags.

"I’ve been impressed because all of their packaging is actually made from post-consumer waste, recyclable material,” he said. "It’s brown and green, so it looks natural.

"They are taking it a step further and making compostable bags,” he added. "They’re inexpensive, and the bags smell good.”

Another favorite is Fifth Paw’s leash-attachment poop bag holder, which Palmer reported discovering at Global Pet Expo. Stephen Longo, Fifth Paw founder, created the product to ease his walks with his Great Danes. The leash attachment clips on to a standard flat-style leash.

"It’s one of the simpler but better ideas that have come about in the past couple of years,” Palmer said, adding that it makes a nice countertop display.

Poop bag
Rakes vs. Scoopers
Pickup bags are more popular for taking walks, but most folks use rakes or scoopers for picking up in the yard, reported Mike Palmer, owner of Premier Pet Products in Beverly Hills, Mich., and Burton Patrick, owner of Burton’s Total Pets in Pittsburgh.
Between rakes and the spring-action scoops, Palmer said he sells more scoops.
"With the rakes you have to use two hands, but the spring action is like a claw, like an extension of your hand,” he said. "You squeeze the handle, and it traps the poop in the scoop.”
Patrick prefers to rake with a dust pan at the end of a pole, and agreed that the spring-action rake is the easiest way to clean up the yard. —HD
Photo Courtesy of Fifth Paw

"It allows you to take a full bag of doody and clip it onto the rotating ring,” Longo said. "The ring rotates around the leash, keeping it tangle-free.”

The product is designed to hold multiple bags as well as house keys or treat bags, allowing the owner more leash control and a more enjoyable walk, Longo said.

As part of his merchandising strategy, Longo purposefully chose packaging to make the product eye catching and its function clear. Plus, he is planning new package designs in other color combinations to make it more fun.

"If it’s a new retailer, I’d rather they at least get one up by the register,” Longo said. "Counter space is premium, but this will give customers a chance to check it out and get the education right there in the store.”

Fifth Paw provides a QR code talker on the package, so customers can link to the instructional video on YouTube while waiting in line, he said, adding that the video is also on the company’s Web page.

Portland, Ore.-based Cycle Dog Earth Friendly Pet Co. caters to the earth-conscious consumer, the company stated, adding that its Earth Friendly Pickup Bags are made from corn and plant starches, which are sustainable and renewable resources. Combined with the company’s Park Pouch Holder, made from reclaimed bike inner tubes, the bags are an extremely earth-friendly pickup solution, said Lanette Fidrych, company founder and president.

Consumers are looking for environmentally friendly solutions that work well, reduce their carbon footprint/pawprint and provide good value and a brand they can trust, said Fidrych, adding that Cycle Dog’s packaging is complementary.

"Our branding is very consistent with our other earth-friendly products: collars, leads, toys and bowls,” Fidrych said. "They are meant to merchandise perfectly with our entire product line.”

Cycle Dogs offers promotional assistance to the retailers who carry their product in the form of free POS retail displays along with signage.

"We also offer free-standing and wall-mount displays,” Fidrych said, adding these general merchandising tips: "Consumers want choice, but too much choice can be confusing. Select a range that will offer selection but not be overwhelming. Multiple pegs of the same product also will drive sales in the same way that top retailers in other categories operate, like The Gap and how they merchandise T-shirts.

"Get to know the product,” she continued. "Your consumers will ask what makes a certain product eco-friendly. Be ready for these questions.” <HOME>


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