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Product Merchandiser Focus: Potty Training Supplies

Posted: Jan. 30, 2013, 8:45 p.m. EST

Knowledge Sells Potty Training Supplies
An educated staff and direct customer interaction are essential to creating a successful marketing strategy for potty training products.
By Sandy Robins

Potty training products are considered essential consumables. The category continues to grow with numerous new products constantly being added to the lineup. As a result, retailers have to continually re-evaluate what to place on their shelves and to take a careful look at their merchandising strategies in order to increase sales and, ultimately, their profits.

Attracting Customer Attention
“I like to place different but related products in highly visible areas throughout my store,” said Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif. “For example, I keep pee pads in the health and grooming department, belly bands where the female panties are, and I have displays of product such as Poochie Bells located at different places throughout the store. I also have a Poochie Bells video playing continuously in the health and grooming area.”

A good video shows a product at its best and makes it easy for in-store staff to elaborate upon, Grow added, noting that too few companies have them.

Potty training pads for dogs
Pee pads are a potty training staple. Sherri L. Collins/BowTie Inc. at Dogma in Irvine, Calif.
The effectiveness of in-store video should never be underestimated, noted David Charlton, vice president of sales for North America for Pup-Pee Solutions, maker of The Pet Loo in Santa Monica, Calif.

“It’s an amazing tool that tells the product’s story and can certainly help educate customers so they can make an informed buying decision,” Charlton said.

“Unfortunately, when I visit stores I see a lot of video players not running,” he continued. “I think many employees and storeowners get tired of hearing the same looping message over and over again. To combat this problem, we have invested in making high-quality sales videos and have begun to place a QR code on our products that allows customers to scan it with their smartphones to watch the video.”

To watch a video about Pup-Pee Solutions' The Pet Loo, click here.

Offering On-site Training
Potty training can be an area of uncertainty and frustration for many pet owners. Success relies on the involvement of the pet owner, which means retailers’ marketing strategies need to include staff that is qualified to ask and answer questions posed by customers, industry participants reported.

In addition to well-qualified staff and prominent product displays, in-store dog training sessions can be a very useful marketing tool, according to Steve Applebaum, president of Animal Behavior College, a national school for dog/cat trainers, veterinary assistants and groomers, based in Valencia, Calif.

“This is a great way to inspire customer loyalty, offer education for staff, and stimulate product sales,” he said. “Every pet store should offer some kind of training. Even those stores too small to hold actual obedience classes can offer consumers workshops to deal with problems and solutions. This is a way in which a store can pay their customers to be better shoppers. Plus both classes and workshops are a great way of drawing new customers to the store.”

Educating Consumers
At Wylie Wagg’s four stores in northeast Virginia, customers are offered a checklist that informs them of all the related supplies available in the potty training category, noted Allison Swanberg, operations manager at the Falls Church location.

Clean-Up Products
Because clean up is integral to potty training and indoor potty systems for both cats and dogs, packaging various products into training kits can be an excellent promotional tool, retailers reported. Offering coupons, educating customers on product differences, and creative displays can also further sales of both types of products.

The Bramton Company’s Simple Solution brand offers starter kits that include both training pads and cleaning products. It also makes bonus packages available to its retail partners that include free samples of Simple Solution Stain and Odor Removers with a package of training pads, the Dallas-based company reported.

Alternatively, retailers can make their own kits and/or offer coupons for clean-up products when designated training items are purchased.

Consumer education is equally essential. It’s important to point out to consumers that not all clean-up products are the same and thus prices may vary, according to industry participants. Thus, it’s a good idea to stock products in various price categories.

When it comes to displaying clean-up products, placement near other potty training solutions is a good way to draw customers’ attention and start a conversation. Creating endcaps or special sections where both potty training and clean-up products are prominently displayed can also boost sales. —SR

“We also put out a regular e-newsletter that highlights new products, details sales events and offers a discount coupon to promote products in this category,” she said.

Investing in consumer research, as the Dallas-based The Bramton Company does, helps businesses not only develop new problem-solving supplies, but also gain insight into customer preferences and behavior.

“As these solutions are introduced into the marketplace, we share the insights from our research with our retail partners,” reported Jim Gallman, senior vice president of marketing for the company. “One way is with promotional materials, such as training materials for store associates as well as pamphlets with puppy training tips, videos for puppy training and how to achieve optimal results with our stain and odor removers that can be shared with consumers.”

At Natural Pawz, which has 10 locations in the greater Houston area, co-owner Biff Picone prefers partnering with vendors and working together for promotions.
“We tend to work with vendors that are the most proactive,” Picone said. “We also work with our vendors to provide support and training for our staff so that they feel more comfortable in promoting the product to customers. In store, we use a combination of manufacturer displays and our own.”

Clinching the Sale
Selling strategies that work well for independent retailers include stocking several products not found in big box stores and using them in-house, noted Patti Storms, owner of Well Bred, The Healthy Pet Marketplace in Chester, N.J.

“I test everything, and customers appreciate this type of hands-on feedback on a product’s efficacy,” she said, adding that her store also has a potty training center located near the register in an area that also displays other day-to-day pet necessities.

When it comes to larger-sized potty training items (e.g., crates, kennels and pens), manufacturer rebates, such as those offered by Petmate, can be another useful tool in a retailer’s merchandising kit.

“Takeaways like this communicate the benefits of owning certain training tools, and also help to minimize some of the confusion and uncertainty that may accompany taking a new pet home and attempting the potty training process,” said Chris Sides, director of marketing at Petmate in Arlington, Texas.

There’s no question, when customers “get it,” it’s an endorsement of a store’s marketing strategies; ultimately, the sales figures will say it all.

“The most sought out products are those proven to work,” Furry Face’s Grow said. “That’s why it’s so essential for a retailer to know a lot about what they are selling. A customer’s decision to try new stuff is based on an in-store dialogue with a sales associate regarding how and why a product works.”


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