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Avian Marketplace: Cages Take Flight

Posted: August 9, 2013, 11:00 a.m. EDT

Trends in pet bird enclosures center on quality, size, safety and play.

By Keith Loria

In response to pet bird owners looking for larger and better-quality cages, more secure locks and advances in play gyms or toppers, several manufacturers have released new products to enhance pet bird ownership.

Quality Control
At Parrots and Co. in Stamford, Conn., store manager Todd Nelson reported that his customers are looking for better quality cages.

"Many of the quality manufacturers have gone by the wayside, and you have lots of things coming out of China [that] are cheap quality,” Nelson said. "The market is price sensitive with the Internet, but every single day people come in who ordered a cage online, and it came in damaged or wasn’t what they thought.

Bird Cage
By rotating the cages displayed in store and including a variety of color options, retailers can interest consumers in setups their birds will enjoy. Courtesy of Parrots and Co.

We sell Featherland, because [the company] palletizes it and doesn’t give the freight carriers the opportunity to screw it up.”

Terry Gao, president of Baltimore-based Caitec Corp., which manufactures Featherland Cages, said the company’s environmentally sensitive industrial design team has developed and patented new technology that makes bird cage assembly problem free by requiring no tools, nuts or bolts and allowing for easier breakdown for routine cleaning.

"We are concentrating on stainless-steel cages,” Gao said. "People don’t realize that if you have the money, in the long-run it’s much better. It’s easier to clean, there’s no risk of the bird getting sick from chewing the coating, and it lasts much longer.”

At Jungle Junction, a retail store in Cumberland, R.I., owner Renee Ducharme said many of her customers want cages with shelves and better locking mechanisms.

In an effort to continue bringing a higher-quality product to its customer, A&E Cage Co. LLC in Burlington, N.J., upgraded to spring-loaded, bird-proof locks on all its food and water doors, said Michelle Battistini, vice president, adding that improvements to the main door include two locks that must be operated simultaneously to prevent the bird from escaping.

HQ bird cages are the enclosure of choice for Rebecca Stockslager, owner of Bonnie’s Birds in Port Charlotte, Fla., who likes the manufacturer’s latching mechanism more than others, particularly when it comes to the large cages for larger birds.

"Our customers are concerned about the quality of the construction,” she said. "Here in Florida, we have a real problem—because of the moisture and humidity—with paint having a life expectancy of half of what you would expect. Wipe them down with a garden hose—never a power washer—and they will hold up longer.”

Design In Mind
A&E offers a wide variety of cages, including styles such as a dome-top, play-top or Victorian style, Battistini said.

"What’s big are multibird housing cages that are attractive to look at and designed to be functional, which many stores have found to enhance their customers’ experiences,” she said. "These multibird units are designed to withstand the constant use of housing, daily cleanings and day-to-day abuse from the birds.”

Seeing a trend of customers wanting more decorative cages, A&E recently expanded its color selection from black, white and sandstone to include blue, green, platinum and burgundy for select models.

King’s Cages International in East Brunswick, N.J., reported seeing an increase in its aluminum cage orders.

Pull-out trays for easier cleaning are in demand, reported Jeremy Powers, director of marketing for bird animal projects at Cincinnati-based United Pet Group, adding that bird containment appears to be going the way that aquatics has with nicer stands and finishes, and more pleasing aesthetics for the pets.

"We are seeing more interest in larger containment, floor-to-ceiling models and large built-in perches,” Powers said. "Rectangular is also the way everything is going.”

"Round cages aren’t as popular as they once were; most people are asking for rectangular cages,” Ducharme said.

Cautionary Tails
Despite the popularity of play tops, which remain a big seller at Bonita Bird Paradise in Bonita Springs, Fla., owner Dave Lanier reported that many people who go with the larger cages are concerned about the play top being too high for the bird to get back down. They also are worried about the bird being up over their heads, believing that to be a dominance issue, he said.

"I have a lot of people asking for play tops, but we don’t stock them [or] recommend them, because we believe the birds are more aggressive when they are up on the play pen,” Ducharme said.

In addition to larger cages, some of the high-end enclosures constructed today use oak and maple for a designer feel, Lanier said, but this can backfire for pet birds that chew.

"If your bird gets out or is outside and is a chewer, he’s going to start right in on that cage,” he said. "If you invested $2,000 or $3,000, that’s going to be bad.”

United Pet’s Powers said that because of continued pressure for retail floor space, bird cages do not sell as much as they used to.

"In a declining category, you tend to see less innovation,” Powers said, "and that’s unfortunate for a consumer.”

Tempt With Toys
With 2,000 square feet of space, Bonita Bird Paradise displays four of its largest cages in the middle of the floor and surrounds them with hangers of toys. Another annex in the store features cages in tiered sizes, offering a cleaner look and giving customers a sense of what size is best for their birds.

Caitec’s Gao suggested that retailers not only display the toys, but also alternate them in the bird cages weekly so customers can see how birds interact with them.

"When they see birds playing with bird toys, they will buy them,” he said. "I suggest showcasing foraging toys, which are popular right now. It’s important to differentiate yourself from a mass merchandiser. What a pet or bird specialty store can offer is knowledge and the ability to show how birds respond.”

Parrots and Co. displays small cages on wall mounts with freestanding cages beside the display. The larger cages are located in a 2,500-square-foot area in the back, and all cages are assembled and ready to go out the door.

"When you buy a cage from the store, you get the opportunity to inspect it, and it’s already put together for you,” Nelson said. "Plus, you can see the birds actually occupying the space, and you can see what works best and all the accessories included; when people see the toys and perches inside, they will buy them.”

Jungle Junction’s Ducharme agreed.

"A lot of times people think cages are too big, but when you fill them with the brightly colored toys and a swing and perches, and they can see what it physically looks like set up, they realize the size they need,” she said. <HOME>


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