Posted: July 18, 2013, 4:30 p.m. EDT
By Sandy Robins
Because nutrition impacts overall pet health, The American Animal Hospital Association released a statement in late 2010 that said a discussion about nutrition should be considered the 5th Vital Assessment and, thus, discussed by a veterinarian at a typical pet wellness checkup.
Little surprise, then, that the word "wellness” has become so significant in the pet world. As a result, more retailers are focusing on products that promote overall health and well-being in their customers’ pets.
One pet store that was way ahead of the wellness trend curve is Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore., which is registered with the state of Oregon as "The Health Food Store for Pets,” according to Chip Sammons, owner.
Some stores feature interactive displays that provide health information and can recommend products. Courtesy of Cutter's Mill
"As such, I consider it to be a wellness center,” Sammons said. "My goal when we opened the store back in 1988 was to only stock products beneficial to pet health—no bad ingredients—and that’s the way it still is with every item we stock.
"A wellness center could be just a marketing concept with whatever natural products seem to fit, or it could—and should—have particular criteria that denotes why specific products have been chosen for that section,” he continued. "For me, that criteria includes no artificial preservatives, no by-products, no sugar, no nitrates and no artificial colors or flavors, no genetically modified or irradiated items.”
Healthy Spot, a chain of pet supply stores in Santa Monica, West Hollywood and Marina del Rey, Calif., also is considered a full-fledged wellness center, said co-owners Andrew Kim, CEO, and Mark Boonnark, COO.
"After all, shouldn’t all the food, treats and supplements in a pet store focus on pet health and general wellness?” Kim said. "We have strict criteria that have to meet the Healthy Spot wellness standards. We believe wellness starts with nutrition and should be the focal point of any wellness center.
"Because we have made a heavy investment in the design and branding of our store feel, we can better differentiate ourselves by creating our own in-store displays rather than utilizing what manufacturers have to offer,” he continued. "However, we do work closely with our manufacturing partners to hold seminars for staff and demos for clients in stores on a frequent basis.”
For Cutter’s Mill, which has five stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, in addition to the regular supplement, dental and grooming aisles in the stores, they also are home to the Earth Animal Solution Center, said Susan L. Parker, executive vice president and COO.
"This section features a full line of holistic wellness items and an interactive display that allows customers to input their pet’s conditions and receive product suggestions and information,” Parker said.
"The most popular wellness items requested by customers are hip and joint, and skin and coat supplements,” she said.
"In each store, we have a QR-code based Neighborhood Resource Guide that allows customers to use their smartphone or our iPad, to look up vets, trainers and groomers in their area,” Parker said.
Retailers say that every pet store should include a pet wellness section. Courtesy of Cutter's Mill
Even if a retailer has limited space, a wellness center in a store still is possible, said Darlene Frudakis, president of PetAg in Hampshire, Ill.
"It is a great way to draw the attention of today’s health-conscious consumer,” she reported. "We live in the age of convenience; consumers want to easily locate where they can purchase products that will preserve and prolong their pets’ lives.”
PetAg also offers consumers pamphlets with helpful tips on infant pet care, adult and senior pet care as well as weight control tips, Frudakis said, adding that they can be downloaded from the company’s website (www.petag.com) and are distributed to retailers.
Promoting—and selling—pet wellness knowledge requires extensive time and effort in research and development of relationships between retailers and their vendors, said Jusak Bernhard, who with Jeffrey Manley co-owns three TailsSpin stores in Savannah, Pooler and Macon, Ga.
"It is time and money well spent, because in order to succeed and compete in such a flooded market, we find that providing well-versed knowledge on pet wellness and customer service are quite important and necessary,” Bernhard said, adding that through research and vendor and veterinarian guidance, they have assembled a great selection of products.
"TailsSpin is also very involved and has worked closely in establishing exercise areas within our jurisdiction, for our customers and their pets,” hcontinued. "This year, TailsSpin helped establish Savannah’s first-ever city-run dog park, resulting in a 3-acre shaded and fenced exercise area.”
For retailers who are reluctant to create a wellness corner or section, designing special pet kits is one way to start the wellness conversation with customers, said Barbara Denzer, vice president of Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif.
"Such kits could include a variety of different products or be focused on one product category,” she said. "For example, you can put together a variety of four or five different natural or holistic treats, offer them at a special price, and call it the ‘Pet Wellness Treat Pack.’” <HOME>
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