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Dog Marketplace: From Basic to Bold

Posted: November 25, 2013, 11:25 a.m. EDT


Dog bowls, feeders and placemats come in a range of styles and price points to meet the needs of all pet owners.

By Stacy N. Hackett

Many pet owners put thought and effort into choosing the perfect food for their dogs. They ensure the ingredients offer the proper nutrition, and they might spend extra time selecting a food that fits with the dog’s lifestyle and age. It makes sense, then, that discerning dog owners would put some extra thought and effort into selecting their dogs’ bowls, dishes, placemats and other feeding accessories.

One of the features customers look for in feeding accessories is cleaning convenience. Manufacturers continue to introduce products to meet those needs.

"We entered a new category—placemats—to meet customer demand,” said Halle Kern, vice president of sales for Harry Barker in Charleston, S.C. "Shoppers were looking for a chic and functional way to simplify cleanup after meals.”

The placemat category includes a range of options for customers, with versions offered by Petmate and Soggy Doggy Productions, among others.

Dog Feeder Bowls
Basic bowls in colors that pop can draw customers’ eyes to store shelves. Stephanie Brown/i-5 Publishing at Kriser’s

"We introduced the Slopmats because so many of our customers were using the original Soggy Doggy doormat under their pets’ water bowls and feeding stations,” said Joanna Rein, president of Larchmont, N.Y.-based Soggy Doggy Productions. "The Slopmat is sized to fit under a standard kitchen counter.”

Play With Your Food
The Soggy Doggy Slopmat—an absorbent, microfiber chenille placemat—remains popular with customers at Lofty Dog in Austin, Texas.

"We’ve been very happy with the quality of the product and have received excellent feedback from our customers,” said Jon Michelson, co-owner, who noted that other popular feeding accessories are puzzle toys. "Many customers today are dealing with pets that eat too fast, and the puzzle toys are a great solution.”

Lofty Dog also stocks the Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug by PetSafe.
"Our store dogs love it and are our best salespeople,” Michelson said. "When we recommend the product, we usually let one of the store dogs demonstrate. Works every time!”

Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies, with three stores in New Jersey, also experiences success with puzzle toys and kibble feeding devices, such as the Kong Wobbler.

"These toys release kibble as the dog plays with them, thus satisfying the need for dogs to be mentally stimulated and slowing down the process of eating,” said Claudia Loomis, vice president of Cherrybrook.
The store also stocks a range of stainless steel, ceramic and plastic feeding bowls, as well as slow feed bowls.

"These bowls spread the food out into several compartments, so it takes longer for the dog to eat,” Loomis said. "This prevents them from gulping air along with their food.”

Industry Voices
What methods can retailers use to encourage sales of dog feeding accessories?

"Merchandising the story (i.e., showing bowls on the placemats) helps customers to visualize the product in their home.”—Halle Kern, vice president of sales at Harry Barker in Charleston, S.C.

"One of the most important things a retailer can do is to make sure that their employees are educated about the various products in this category.”—Monika Allen, product manager feeding and watering at Petmate in Arlington, Texas

"Be consistent in marketing feeding accessories with your marketing efforts of dog food.”—Harvey Miller, vice president of sales and marketing at ModaPet in Reno, Nev.

"Many retailers will open a Slopmat and put dog dishes on top so their customers can see the mat in action.”—Joanna Rein, president of Soggy Doggy Productions in Larchmont, N.Y.

"We have all the feeding accessories on display with the bowls so customers can see the accessories along with the conventional bowls.”—Claudia Loomis, vice president of Cherrybrook Premium Pet Supplies with three stores in New Jersey

"Merchandising is key. In pet stores, utilize floor space and shelf space, and make sure pricing is easy to find.”—Eric Hodel, national sales and brand manager at Unleashed Life in Springfield, Mo.

"Offer your customers a range of bowl designs—from simple and sturdy to posh and elegant—but note that all can be in an affordable price point.”—Eric Abbey, president of Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J.

"We let the [store] dogs de- monstrate how the products are used.”—Jon Michelson, co-owner of Lofty Dog in Austin, Texas

A range of feeding accessories can help pet owners deal with dogs that eat too fast. The Gobble Stopper from Loving Pets, for example, fits inside an existing pet bowl to slow eating.

"The patent-pending Gobble Stopper insert can be applied to any feeding dish, encouraging dogs to eat around and underneath the canopy, bone-shaped design,” said Eric Abbey, president of the Cranbury, N.J., company.

In a similar fashion, electronic feeders can help owners control the amount of food their dogs can eat at one time.

"[The] Portion Right automatic feeder is a programmable solution for owners that are away from home for short periods or for dogs that need a close eye kept on their food intake,” said Emilye Schmale, corporate communications manager for Petmate in Arlington, Texas.

Plain to Fancy
Petmate also offers a slow feed bowl as well as gravity feeders, food storage, travel bowls and elevated double diners, among other options.

"For dogs we offer a number of basic lightweight and heavyweight plastic bowls with and without Microban,” Schmale said.

Natural Pet Food & Supplies in Temecula, Calif., displays a variety of bowls on its shelves, from ceramic and stoneware versions to plastic and stainless steel. Customers often use their dogs’ inclinations as a guide when making their selections.

"Some dogs have a preference for the type of bowl they drink out of,” said Annette Merrifield, the store’s assistant manager. "Some like stoneware, some like stainless, others like fountains.”

The store also offers a range of sizes to fit different breeds, as well as elevated feeders to accommodate the needs of older dogs. The bowls are displayed by size and by type, with colorful ceramic bowls in a rainbow of designs placed on the top shelf. Bella Bowls and Dolce Dishes from Loving Pets, with bone designs in a range of colors, sit in front of the stainless steel bowls.

 

Eye-catching graphics created by manufacturers appeal to customers’ aesthetic sensibilities as well as their practicality.

"High style and craftsmanship are fused with natural and exotic materials to create our sophisticated line of dog bowls,” said Eric Hodel, national sales and brand manager for Unleashed Life in Springfield, Mo. "The benefit is that you no longer have to sacrifice style.”

And while beautiful designs will catch the customer’s eye, practical features will help convince them to take the bowl home. Features such as a nonskid base, sturdiness and dishwasher-safe materials add appeal to feeding accessories.

"All of our bowls have a nonskid base so pets aren’t running into the issue of their bowl sliding all around the kitchen floor while trying to eat,” reported Harvey Miller, vice president of sales and marketing for Reno, Nev.-based ModaPet. "Our traditional-style bowls are incredibly durable, functional and, of course, fashionable.”

Close the Sale
Explaining the practical features of a beautiful bowl is one way store owners can encourage sales of these and other feeding accessories. Manufacturers also recommend mentioning the products in conversations about other supplies.

"If someone comes in looking for dog food, is there a way to bring accessories into the discussion?” Miller asked. "If they are interested in BPA-free dog toys, would they then be interested in BPA-free bowls, too?”

Education for staff and customers is crucial, manufacturers stated.

"One of the most important things a retailer can do is make sure that their employees are educated about the various products in this category,” Schmale said. "Once employees know and better understand the features and benefits for each type of feeder, they are then better able to recommend the proper fit and solution to your consumers.”

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