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Cat Marketplace: Training Employees to Sell Functional Cat Treats

Posted: Feb. 15, 2013, 5:40 p.m. EST

Training employees to sell cat treats can equal extra consumer interest.
By Sandi Cain

Employees may have an easy time selling chew treats for dogs or toys for cats. But when it comes to treats with a purpose, a little extra training can help drive sales. Manufacturers address this in different ways.

The Nutro Co., maker of Greenies and the new Feline Greenies SmartBites, concentrates its efforts right at the retail outlets by regularly placing pet nutrition specialists at independent retailers to help both employees and customers understand the purpose and benefit of Greenies functional treats, said Monica Barrett, corporate affairs manager for the Franklin, Tenn., company.

Functional cat treats
Treats don’t always sell themselves—it’s up to employees to point out their functional benefits. Stephanie Brown/BowTie Inc. at Kriser’s in Studio City, Calif.
Catswell in Los Angeles, which offers Happy Hips and VitaKitty beneficial treats, starts the training at the distribution level to help distributors sell the products to their retail customers, said Brad Armistead, vice president of marketing and innovation for the company.

Other companies, such as NaturVet, focus on educational pieces that will help retailers train their own employees.

“Bigger stores realize the need for education; smaller ones sometimes forget to do some of the things that would give them an edge,” said Scott Garmon, president of the Temecula, Calif., manufacturer.

Interactive online training tools for store owners and staff are the preferred method of training for Durango, Colo.-based Zuke’s, which makes a Cat Hip Action soft treat to promote mobility. Zuke’s also includes QR codes on its POPs—but still provides traditional sell sheets.

“The more educated the staff can be, the more products they’re likely to sell in-store,” said Nicole Glover, Zuke’s marketing director.

Small retail chains often take advantage of these opportunities. At Tomlinson’s, which has seven stores in the Austin, Texas, area, manufacturers’ reps visit each store to talk about these products and their benefits. The stores sometimes send samples home with employees to try with their own pets.

Serve Up Snacks with Benefits
Click here to find out what functional treats cat owners are asking for to improve and prevent a range of feline health issues.
“It’s easier to explain to customers if you use it yourself,” said Paula Moore, buyer for the retail chain.

Chuck & Don’s Pet Food Outlet does “intense training” for employees, coupled with educational sessions presented by manufacturers’ representatives to promote product knowledge, said Ray Bechtold, assistant manager for the small chain’s Denver location, one of 22 stores in Colorado and Minnesota.

Extensive in-house training is also the norm at Northern California’s 46-store Pet Food Express. New employees train at corporate headquarters in Oakland. But it doesn’t end there. Each employee is required to do one product training session for each shift worked each week.

“It gives us a leg up on a lot of other [retailers],” said Tyler Sessions, assistant manager of the Sacramento Pet Food Express.

To read more out employee training, click here.


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