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2:27 AM   October 22, 2014
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BIRD MARKETPLACE
Keep the (Cage) Customer Satisfied 
Birdcage trends revolve around avian enthusiasts’ wants and needs.
By Erin O’Brien

Safety, durability, aesthetics and cleanliness are factors consumers consider when buying birdcages. Courtesy Cioli & Hunnicutt/BowTie Studio
The cage is one of the most basic of all bird-related products and accessories. However, like these other items, cages are constantly altered by manufacturers in accordance with sales trends, advancements in technology and consumer demand. The key to selling such a seemingly basic accessory ahead of the competition is giving consumers what they want.

"Marketing trends are very important, especially in this economy,” noted Shawna McAllister, office manager and customer service representative for A&E Cage Co. LLC, a manufacturer in Burlington, N.J. “But this industry is completely recession-proof. People need cages for their birds. They want to be sure their birds are safe in their cages, and that [the cages] look nice.”

Many consumers consider an effective cage lock an invaluable accessory in terms of bird safety. To help accommodate this need, A&E has added loaded cedar-door locks to some of its cages.

“These locks really help keep the bird from getting out of the cage,” McAllister said. “A lot of cages just have the latches, and the birds can get out. Birds are extremely smart, so they figure out how to spring the latch open and get out. Water gets everywhere, seed gets everywhere, and the bird could get hurt. With a new feature like this, people feel safer about putting their birds in these cages. We’ve had a lot of good feedback.”

Birds are also safer when their stationary and carrying cages are durable, according to Renee Ducharme, owner of Jungle Junction, a retail store in Cumberland, R.I.

"The King’s Cages aluminum carrying cages are nice and sturdy,” said Ducharme, referring to the manufacturer in East Brunswick, N.J. “They have different sizes for smaller birds to [larger] Amazons to cockatoos. A lot of people used to use cat carriers, and the birds would just chew right through them, make a mess and destroy [the carriers]. But these carrying cages are all aluminum, so the bird can’t chew them.”

In addition to durability and safety, a number of manufacturers are taking the cage’s aesthetic appearance into further consideration. Prevue Pet Products Inc. in Chicago, Ill., for one, will soon release its Royalty Cage series, a line of wrought-iron cages that features three sizes, three colors and, according to marketing manager Lisa Zierfuss, an attractive appearance.

“They have a pagoda-style peaked roof, and there are little brushed-metal balls at the tips of each pointed corner on the roof,” Zierfuss said. “They look elegant, and they’re a little bit fancier than a lot of other cages.”

Zierfuss also cited a new line of wrought iron, dome-top cages that “look cleaner to some people. [The dome tops] have slightly different features than our other wrought-iron cages. They have a two-in-one front door, meaning that it opens down or swings out. You can open it, and the bird could walk out on the door if you want it to. But you can just open the top half of the door to replace toys, clean, etc., and it gives you a better chance of keeping the bird in the cage while you’re doing it.”

Cleanliness is another strong selling point when it comes to cages, according to Michael Clark, avian product development manager for Super Pet, a manufacturer in Elk Grove Village, Ill.

“[For a companion bird, who is] unable to act on its instinct to relocate, the need for a clean environment is amplified in an in-home setting,” Clark stated.

Pullout drawers and trays are particularly popular at the moment, according to Zierfuss, because they address the issues of both cleanliness and convenience.

“People want something that’s low-maintenance,” Zierfuss said. “Anything that makes it easier to clean and maintain, such as pullout drawers, seed guards or anything like that, is popular because it makes cleaning easier. You don’t have to tear the whole cage apart to clean it.”

Prevue’s Royalty and dome-top cages feature slide-out bottom grilles, pullout drawers and seed-guard sets.

“One of the new cages [A&E] just added—the Deluxe Play Top Cage—has a storage drawer underneath the cage,” McAllister reported.

“It’s very nice to be able to put food in there instead of elsewhere. It makes for easier access and less clutter.”

A&E has also introduced some 18x14-inch cages with pullout trays and grates, “which make it a lot easier to clean the cages,” McAllister said. “People don’t have to take off the top of the cage like they used to. With these, you can actually clean the cage and keep your bird in there the entire time, which is nice. It makes it a lot more convenient and easier to clean for people.”

Several manufacturers are using similar strategies to sell other bird accessories, such as perches, stands and activity centers. According to Clark, Super Pet has created the Cage Top Activity Center and the Comfort Style Perch to ensure entertainment and foot health for birds.

“[Super Pet] homes feature a full cage-top activity center, complete with [a] ladder, perch, water and treat cups and activity bar, providing the bird with its own personal playground,” Clark offered. “Our cages also feature foot-friendly perches to provide multiple perching widths, contributing to improved foot health.”

Jungle Junction recently began carrying the Super Bird Creations (based in Grand Junction, Colo.) Cajeput Coffee Table Perch, which can benefit birds with handicaps, Ducharme said.

“They’re round pieces of tree that bolt onto the cage and make a little shelf,” Ducharme added. “They’re good for birds that can’t stand on the traditional perch. You can put food on top of them and make the bird walk around to get it. They’re also good for foraging, which is important. Anything to do with foraging has been really popular.”

Prevue has expanded its play stands, as well as introduced Nature’s Perch Maker, the company’s “newest unique cage accessory,” according to Zierfuss.

“You attach [the perch maker] to your cage, and it lets you use natural tree branches as perches instead of the plastic or wooden perches that typically come with birdcages. It creates a more natural environment. There’s a big push to be environmentally clean and friendly, or ‘green,’ so that’s its biggest sales point.”

From cleanliness and safety to beauty and convenience, today’s top-selling cages and accessories, like all bird-related products, are continually changing and expanding. As such, knowing the current trends, as well as the tried-and-true classics, is key for the success of pet industry professionals. <HOME>

Erin O'Brien is a freelance writer and editor for many trade and consumer publications on topics ranging from animal and plant care to business and entertainment.

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