Posted: August 8, 2013, 9:30 a.m. EDT
New animal enclosure upgrades can put potential pets in a brand new light.
By Keith Loria
Thanks to forward-thinking designers and new innovations in the animal enclosure category, pet stores that sell animals are creating comfortable in-waiting homes for future pets. Enclosures of any kind are an investment, and industry insiders recommend retailers take time to consider the image they want their stores’ enclosures to project to customers.
"Enclosures enhance your store because animals add fun, warmth and excitement to the retail environment,” said Margi Senior, national sales manager for Companion Habitats in Colorado Springs, Colo., which partners with AnimalSafe, a Colorado Springs manufacturer of versatile animal shelter and rescue equipment. "Animals are happier and healthier in a well-circulated environment, and happy animals in a beautiful display find homes quicker than [those in] a more basic display. Once the animals are purchased, all those accessories will be coming off the shelf for purchase as well.”
Visibility, lighting, and enclosure cleanliness all can go a long way toward piquing customer interest and selling livestock. Courtesy of Edoma/Stutterstock.com
According to Chris Miller, president of Pacific Store Designs Inc. in Garden Grove, Calif., using top-quality animal enclosures can help save money on labor, increase sales and help ensure healthier animals.
"From a health standpoint, we exhaust all of our animal enclosures out of the building, and we make sure the exhaust is more than 30 feet away from the fresh air supply coming in,” said Miller. "In a heavy-use animal store, we bring in more fresh air than they would in a hospital environment. For a puppy store, we make sure there are at least six to eight air changes per hour so there’s no smell in the store.”
"Jungle” Bob Smith of Jungle Bob’s Reptile World in Centereach, N.Y., who houses snakes, frogs, tortoises and other reptiles, places a premium on enclosure quality.
"In our store, it’s all about the display,” said Smith. "Everything we have is in a naturalistic display whether it’s aquariums, terrariums or vivariums. We create a whole ecosystem in the tank, with plants, running water, etc., so it’s the environment of the animal as best as we can emulate. The enclosures are truly centerpieces of our store.”
Tricks of the Trade
Vicki Grudzinski, manager of family-run Teske Pet & Garden Center Inc. in Moline, Ill., said her store uses glass-top enclosures with metal locking lids and bottoms that serve as food storage cabinets.
"They are chest high so animals are easily seen by the customers,” said Grudzinski. "They open from four different sides, which is nice if puppies are sleeping in one area. Plus, because the tops lift completely off, they are pretty easy to clean.”
When it comes to avian enclosures, Miller said one-way glass can keep birds from being scared or startled by customers. He also recommended that retailers choose tempered glass or stainless steel enclosures, adding that they are more durable and may prevent injuries caused to pets or people by broken glass.
Placing animals lower, said retailers, puts them at eye level with most children, which might enhance a customer’s visit and encourage bonding.
"Of course, the most important thing is the sightlines and viewability,” said Heather Mason, manager of Seahorse, a retail pet store in Allison Park, Pa. "The enclosures need to be placed so it’s easy for customers to see and gives you a better chance of selling,” she said, adding that enclosures also should feature comfortable flooring and bedding.
Additionally, Miller said that dividers are a way to display more species per square inch, which can sometimes help with customer selection.
Lighting and Signs
There’s more to a good animal enclosure than just the compartment itself. Proper lighting and signage go a long way toward creating an eye-catching display.
"You want the full spectrum of maximum light, so it’s not quite the sunshine, but it’s as close as animals can get for better health and a sense of night and day,” Miller said. "Warmer tones seem to [create for] people an environment they are comfortable with. Too white looks too antiseptic. Too dark looks not thought out.”
Signage allows customers to better understand the benefits and features of each species. Miller recommended using an LCD sign accompanied by an MP3 player to show a video about the animal and its lifestyle. He said the staff should use the videos as selling aids but also project solid personal knowledge on the breed and the animal.
"When the staff is motivated and customers see animals that are illuminated, don’t smell and are labeled with professional signs, we see a 30 percent increase in sales,” said Miller, adding that these kinds of returns can help pay for new enclosures in a one- to two-year period.
Retailers reported appreciating greater versatility in enclosure configuration and adaptability to changing needs, both of which can increase cleanliness, display variety and animal-customer interaction.
Companion Habitats offers a wide variety of enclosures that house small animals, reptiles and birds.
"Our Rascal Room display and our Duo Habitat are both multispecies displays, where you can house all types of critters within one unit,” Senior said. "Each habitat features separate cages that easily remove for thorough cleaning or quick access to capture, feed or spot clean.”
The company’s Petting Zoo line of lower gravity, interactive displays for puppies, kittens, ferrets, bunnies, chinchillas, guinea pigs, small birds and more feature easily removable dividers and separate locking removable lids, allowing a store to control the amount of interaction that takes place between a customer and animals—something Senior said retail stores had been asking about for years.
"This is a product on wheels, so it can easily be moved to any area of the store,” Senior said. "The easily locking lids make it easy for you to allow handling if you choose, or block handling while still allowing the customer to have a full view of the animals.”
Forney, Texas-based CD&E Enterprises’niche is cages and enclosures for cats and dogs, rabbits, monkeys, ferrets and more, and it offers everything from single units to multilevel cage banks to large walk-in enclosures.
Christal Frerking, company owner, said retail stores must think outside the box to create eye-catching animal exhibits; to that end, the company helps stores design custom enclosures.
"We work with our customers to design the most creative, cost-effective enclosures that make the best possible use of their available store space,” said Frerking. "They can give us the parameters of the area they have to work with, what animal they’re housing and what their goals are and then we design and build it. Every store is unique, so their enclosure solution should be, too.”
For example, the company recently worked with a pet store that wanted to showcase adoptable cats in a community setting. The store’s small, oddly shaped space posed a challenge, but it did have a height advantage.
"When we were done, they had an 8-foot-tall cage open for the 6 six feet, with a loft area and a multilevel side tower for litter pans, each with its own access door,” said Frerking. "You can’t discount the ‘wow’ factor.”
Frerking said all enclosures should include removable vertical dividers, floor options to allow and/or control animals’ access between levels and horizontal and vertical expandability, all of which allow stores to reconfigure space as needs change or the housed population fluctuates.
"How customers see the animals, how they’re housed and what accommodations have been made to make them happy directly affects how they view the store itself,” said Frerking. "We are so excited about the changes we’ve seen in the industry in the last decade. More and more entities caging animals, whether it’s a store or humane society or boarding facility getting away from ‘the box.’ We’re increasingly seeing community housing, enclosures with enhanced visibility and more effective use of space.” <HOME>
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