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Product Merchandiser Focus: Flea & Tick Products

Posted: March 4, 2013, 5:30 p.m. EST


Itching to Educate
Pet companies use various media to educate customers and sell flea and tick prevention products.
By Sandy Robins

With the introduction of over-the-counter generic flea and tick medication to the category, retailers have a unique opportunity to promote themselves as complete flea and tick preventive centers by stocking such products alongside a selection of holistic and chemical flea and tick collars, powders, sprays, shampoos and other treatment products.

“From a consumer’s standpoint, the fact that such generic products are available on retail shelves means they are easily accessible and very affordable to all pet owners. Previously such products were limited to a veterinary platform,” said Alex Kaufman, president and CEO of FidoPharm Inc., the manufacturer of PetArmor. “When such products are backed by extensive manufacturer-store merchandising opportunities, they offer retailers an opportunity for on-going sales at prices that, while attractive to consumers, still offer an appealing margin of profit for the retailer.”

When it comes to sprays and shampoo-type flea- and tick-control products, online retailers have excellent opportunities to promote specials on their homepages and provide detailed product descriptions to consumers, according to Craig Gilmore, CEO of Vetdepot.com in Encinitas, Calif.

Flea and tick products for dogs
There are a variety of flea- and tick-control products for pets on the market.
“Consumers read product descriptions and base their purchase decisions on how the product meets their specific needs,” he said. “However, when it comes to selecting topical products, consumers are still very tied to brand names that they know. They feel more confident using them because they typically have been recommended by their veterinarians.”

Tony Johnson, DVM, an emergency room veterinarian at Purdue University, agreed that there is still a lot of consumer educating to be done.

“Yes, humans love brand names; they give us something to hold on to,” Dr. Johnson said. “It’s important that pet owners always heed advice from pet professionals. At the same time, as the marketplace changes, it’s vital that pet owners learn and understand their options.”

Pet specialty retailers have an advantage over the big box stores, said Caryn Stichler, vice president of marketing for Sergeant’s Pet Care in Omaha, Neb. Pet specialty retailers get to interact with customers daily, detail the various products on their shelves and, in the case of flea and tick generic equivalents, highlight the cost savings.

As  products have changed, new platforms for merchandising have emerged. These platforms are based on a close synergy between manufacturers, retailers and end users who are found in the various social media platforms.

“We add all our retailers to our website, the moment they order for the first time, to help direct traffic to their stores,” said Adelia Ritchie, Ph.D., president and founder of DERMagic Skincare For Animals Inc. in Kingston, Wash. “We have a number of discount coupons available to the public that are for in-store use only, and we promote our retailers on Facebook and Twitter. We encourage them to follow us on Facebook and to subscribe to our blog for tips and tricks to market these products, as well as how to recognize specific skin issues that would call for treatment with one or more of our products.”

Retailers also receive a DVD to use for staff training and, if it is mounted in-store, customers can benefit from it as well, Dr. Ritchie added.

Of course, there is nothing like a show-and-tell scenario. At Best Buddy Dog Wash in Duvall, Wash., owners Jeff and Debby Zuber use specific products in their grooming department and find that this is an excellent way to promote such products for home use.

Taking merchandising and promoting flea and tick products to a new level, Chip Sammons, the owner of Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore., wrote what he describes as a fun and informative book about fleas called “Flea Control: A Holistic and Humorous Approach: Sex, Romance, Intrigue and Practical Ways to Kill Fleas” that he sells on his website.

Popular Prevention Products
When it comes to flea and tick products, retailers report that everything sells.

“At different times, customers have different needs,” said Sarah Kin, product buyer for Anaheim Feed and Pet Supply in Anaheim, Calif. “On one occasion they might be stocking up on topical, and another time, they might be looking for products to prevent infestations in the home and garden. We also drive sales of different products with our coupons and in-store promotions.”

The war against fleas and ticks must be fought on various frontiers, said Chip Sammons, owner of Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore. Flea and tick prevention begins with a healthful diet and a great general vitamin mineral supplement for pets, he added.

“Products that contain yeast, liver and garlic powder that are fed daily to pets create an odor on the dog or cat that fleas don’t like, making it a great natural repellent,” Sammons explained. “It also has nutritional benefits.”

To read more about natural flea and tick remedies, click here.

From the online market, Craig Gilmore, CEO of Vetdepot.com in Encinitas, Calif., said their top sellers are topical products that require monthly reapplication on an on-going basis.—SR

“As a retailer, I feel it’s important to let pet owners know that flea and tick needs have to be targeted on three frontiers—namely the environment, internally and topically,” said Sammons, who manufactures his own flea and tick products that are sold and distributed to other retailers nationwide.

“What we do to our personal environment is the most important, because fleas only spend about 20 percent of their time on pets; the rest of the time they are in the home in places such as carpets, cracks, crevices and baseboards,” he said. “That’s why I promote products that contain beneficial nematodes, pyrethrum powder, diatomaceous earth and boric acid powder.”

It’s important for retailers to always be aware that the flea and tick category primarily is seasonal in some parts of the country, and the timing of the season can vary from year to year, according to Kevin Jones, brand manager for Bio Spot, which is manufactured by Phoenix-based Central Garden and Pet. Factors including temperature, humidity and rainfall all impact the timing and intensity of the season.

Thus part of the company’s support strategy focuses on offering its Bio Spot-brand retailers locally relevant seasonal weather information. The idea is to help them plan marketing strategies so they can maximize the effectiveness of the flea and tick promotional material that the company provides, such as pre-packed shippers, shelf strips, header cards and a product comparison chart, Jones said.

“In 2013, our weather intelligence service predicts that the weather—and the flea and tick season—will revert back to normal in most areas of the country, which should impact the timing of flea and tick promotions and merchandising events,” Jones added.

Infestations might be seasonal, but relevant education is perennial.

“An important merchandising message is explaining the importance of selecting products that contain an insect growth regulator, which prevents flea eggs and larvae from growing up into biting, breeding adults,” Jones said. “Breaking the flea lifecycle is critical to effective flea control. And, of course, it’s about not only treating your pet but prevention in the home and yard too.”

At Anaheim Feed and Pet Supply in Anaheim, Calif., store associates find manufacturer materials such as shelf talkers and pamphlets extremely useful.

“Often a customer will come in looking for products and will take home a brochure to read up about the product and then return to purchase,” said Sarah Kin, product buyer. “We like to promote products in-store through our monthly coupon program and, depending on the time of year, we will structure special deals on a variety of flea and tick merchandise.

“I like to try different products to test them for the effectiveness on my three dogs,” Kin continued. “Lots of our store associates do this, too. This way we get to exchange ideas and pass on information to customers. After all, there is nothing that sells a product like a personal recommendation.” 

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