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Avian Marketplace: Bird Cage Cleaning Products Help Tidy Up Balance Sheet

Posted: July 26, 2012, 4:00 p.m. EDT

Engaging bird owners and promoting brand loyalty can spur the sales of cage maintenance products.
By Lindsey Getz

Cleaners, liners and other items that keep a bird cage tidy and germ-free would appear to be easy sells, but some pet owners manage to get by with whatever is at hand. A pet store retailer who explains or demonstrates how products made for cleaning up after birds save time or are a better solution can change habits and generate repeat sales, according to industry participants.

Interaction Is Key
“Selling maintenance products can be easy if you engage the customer,” said Donna Garrou, owner of birdStuff in Orange, Calif. “If you don’t, you can’t expect those sales.

Display bird cages and products made for cleaning up after birds together
Display bird cages and products made for cleaning up after birds together.
“People have been using newspaper to line cages for years,” she continued. “They won’t see the benefit of paying money for something that they can get for free unless you take the time to talk to them about it.”

Displaying cages and maintenance products together can make a big difference, Garrou advised. At least half of the customers who inquire about cleaning accessories do so because the products are in use at her store, she said.

“They may ask, ‘Why would you use that product instead of newspaper?’ and I already know there’s a little bit of interest since they’re asking,” Garrou related. “I can take that curiosity and turn it into a sale. Making that first sale of something like a liner is so important because it’s a repeat sale item.”

Cage Catchers of Sparta, Mich., has been making waxed paper liners for two decades, and while not much has changed—customers still flock to the original product—the company has become more accommodating as cage sizes and styles evolve.

“We’ve recently started to adapt to fit into as many cages as we can,” reported Tim May, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing. “As the play gyms and odd-sized cages have become more popular, we’ve tried to change with them.”

Flexibility in liner sizes is important to customers of Bird Cage Portal, an online retailer, owner Shari Carpenter said.

“The Cage Catchers product is available in many sizes, and I’ve found that the company can do custom cuts and is very helpful when we need something different,” she noted. “The product is great for preventing moisture from getting into the bottom of the pan.”

Cleaning the Mess
One of the biggest maintenance issues for bird owners is the mess. Mango Pet Products Inc. of Smithfield, R.I., offers a number of cleaning and disinfectant products, including Pet Focus Aviary and Cage Disinfectant, Poop Swoop Wipes, and Control Natural Aviary and Cage Bug Spray. A new spray, Potty Pickup, is great for dealing with accidents on furniture, rugs and even clothes, president Erik Christopher said.

“All of these products are great add-ons for retailers,” Christopher suggested. “They can be best promoted when birds come to get groomed, when a new bird goes home or even right at the register.”

For some, the solution is the bird cage itself. Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. of Mansfield, Mass., created the new Vision line with less mess in mind.

Industry Voices
Which bird maintenance products do you sell most frequently?

“Poop Off really works, and customers get to see that at our store. We keep the wipes on hand so customers handling the birds can clean themselves up if they get pooped on.”
Glenda Bone, owner of Gallery of Pets in Austin, Texas

“We sell a lot of brushes, scrapers and litter sifters. Litters such as walnut shell and corn cob make the cage look more attractive. People also look for things to keep the mess down by purchasing cages with aprons and cups with hoods.”
Omar Gonzalez, owner of Omar’s Exotic Birds in Lake Forest, Brea and Santa Monica, Calif.

“We sell a lot of the World’s Best Cat Litter. Most of the cat litters are not good for birds because if the bird swallows it, it can be harmful. But this particular product is not harmful if ingested. Customers also like Poop Off and Pet Focus.”
Donna Garrou, owner of birdStuff in Orange, Calif.

“We sell a pretty equal amount of Poop Off and Pet Focus. With any kind of maintenance product, customers develop a preference and stick with it. It’s most important to suggest these products to new customers and new bird owners.” 
Larry Guizio, owner of World of Birds in Chester, N.J.

“Smaller species of companion birds such as finches, canaries and parakeets tend to be rather messy,” admitted Melanie Allen, the company’s avian product specialist. “Their natural behaviors when eating or flying in their cage creates a constant flow of flying debris that usually scatters beyond the boundaries of traditional cages.

“The Vision cage is designed to capture this flying debris and direct the dander created by the bird’s natural behaviors toward the bottom of the cage,” Allen added. “The deep sides of the base are designed to keep that dander at the bottom, preventing ‘fly out’ onto the pet owner’s floor. Additionally, the feed stations are positioned on the floor of the cage, which solves further messiness problems.”

Reducing Food Waste 
Big Bird Products Inc. of Holiday, Fla., released Seed Cleaner, which is designed to separate the chaff from the seed, ensuring an efficient recycling of uneaten bird food deposited on a cage floor.

“Our stats from the commercial model show that users can save several thousands of dollars on feed since nothing is wasted,” said Bruce Wolters, vice president of sales and marketing. “I’d say you could cut down your feed bill by at least half. People are using them in their pet stores and also in their homes.”

One product designed to reduce food debris around the cage and on the floor is the TidySeed Feeder, a solution recommended by Mary Wyld, president of Norfolk, Va.-based distributor Wyld’s Wingdom.

“It is a self-contained dining room, so to speak, as the mess stays inside of the unit,” she said. “A side benefit is how well you can view the bird while it’s eating.”

Selling the TidySeed Feeder is easier, Wyld added, if the sales staff demonstrates the product or at least has a video of it in action.

“When your customer sees how well it works for you, they will want one for every cage,” she said.

Limited Availability
A few retailers reported good sales of hard-to-find products.

Omar’s Exotic Birds, with locations in Lake Forest, Brea and Santa Monica, Calif., sells Enviro-Clean, an exclusive, eco-friendly cage cleaner and deodorizer formulated to remove dried fruit, dirt and feces.

For Glenda Bone, owner of Gallery of Pets in Austin, Texas, locally made cage skirts that catch thrown seed are a hot item.

“Customers like that they’re local and made to match the cage covers,” Bone said. “They also have Velcro so you can easily take them down and toss them in the washing machine.”

At birdStuff, Garrou sells a scraper available through her store only.

“We created it for the poop that’s stuck along the bars or on the bottom of the cage,” Garrou noted. “When you have a bird store and are in the business of cleaning a lot of cages, you start to figure out what works and what doesn’t and come up with your own solutions.”

The bottom line, industry participants concluded, is that customers look for solutions, too, and will become loyal to particular brands or products when they find one that works and is easy to use.

“We see the trends as being that both the novice bird owner and the long-time bird owner want ease in cleaning cages and floors with bird-safe products,” said Mango Pet Products’ Christopher. “This gives the bird owner more one-on-one time with their bird in a clean and healthy environment. It makes bird ownership much more enjoyable.”  


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