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Dog Marketplace: Smart Shelving Maximizes Sales of Treats & Chews

Posted: Nov. 16, 2012, 7:20 p.m. EDT

Planograms can boost chews and treats sales with more efficient stocking and eye-catching displays.
By Sandy Robins

A product category such as dog chews and treats pretty much sells itself. However, with creative displays and frequent stock rotation, it’s possible to boost sales and increase profits even more, especially during the holiday season.

The big question is, Should retailers do it themselves or use planograms?

“If I saw a creative and interesting planogram, I would use it, but for the most part, I just create displays myself,” said Chip Sammons, owner of the Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore., who was recently nominated Small Business Person of the Year for the State of Oregon for 2012 by the U.S. Small Business Administration in Washington, D.C.

Dog chews
Stores can achieve a uniform look with brand blocking and make it easier for consumers to find products. Sherri L. Collins/BowTie Inc. at Safari Pet Centre
“For me, that’s part of the fun of being a retailer,” he said. “The incredible thing is that even after 24 years, I continue to get great ideas for unique and creative displays here in the same store. However, I do enjoy seeing planograms whether I use them or not, because many times it sparks me toward another good idea, and this is particularly important for a category such as dog chews and treats during the holiday season because it can result in extra sales.”

Another specialty storeowner, Lorin Grow of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif., said she never uses planograms because she doesn’t want what she calls “that big box look” in her store.

“I visualize how I want a specific section of my store to look and take it from there,” Grow said. “It boils down to the fact that we tend to move products about the store or reset them in different ways to create a new presentation.

“We have a designated treat section and, within that area, there is a chew section,” she continued. “And further, the majority of the chews are at ‘sniff’ level, which then involves the ultimate consumer—the fur kid making its own selections to a point. I always enjoy watching the interaction between owners and their dogs. They are like kids in a candy store.”

Still, planogram doesn’t have to be a dirty word, noted Al Puntillo, director of key accounts for the Animal Supply Co., a distribution company in Federal Way, Wash.

“It’s all about working with our retail partners and creating a marketing strategy that will have the ultimate effect on their sales and profit,” he said. “It’s all about category management and customization. It’s about looking at sales histories and reviewing, and about rotating out and refreshing stock. That way there are less returns and product write-offs.”

Smaller retailers can consider planograms as a starting point, Puntillo said.

“As a distributor, it’s our role to act as the ‘middleman’ between the manufacturers and the retailer,” he noted. “We have a specialized skill set and access to the big picture of the entire market and thus know what’s trending upward. This information is very useful to storeowners.”

David DeLorenzo, president of Vetscience LLC, the manufacturer of Fruitables Pet Food in Dallas, provides recommended shelf layouts for his products using digital images of products and a shelf.

Treat Preferences
Meat-flavored treats were the most popular flavor treat regardless of the dog’s size (bought by 67 percent of total dog owners in 2010).

The most popular type of chew bought was rawhide (89 percent) with a significant gain in small, knotted bones—41 percent in 2010, up from 29 percent in 2008.

The most preferred flavor is still natural for almost all rawhide chews.
Source: American Pet Products Association’s 2011-2012 National Pet Owners Survey

“We have two formats,” he said. “The ‘ideal’ setup shows all the products we offer, and the second focuses on a ‘core’ or ‘priority assortment’ set, which has our top sellers. It is not a planogram in the sense of a database/CAD drawing software that many large companies use in their category management departments. We don’t have the resources to support customizing planograms for retailers.”

It’s important that store personnel have a good understanding of the products on the shelf so that they can make suggestions and ultimately promote sales,” DeLorenzo said. “Customer interaction is also a great way to learn about customer likes and dislikes and channel the results into bigger profits.”

Planogram software allows Nature’s Variety to plug in exact dimensions of individual retailer racks or shelves, said Stephanie Arnold, vice president of sales for the Lincoln, Neb., manufacturer.

“That way, we’re able to know the exact amount of product on the shelf based on the package dimensions,” she said.

“Typically, our planograms show our entire treat story together in one space, so we do see better sales growth in these accounts,” Arnold continued. “Our planograms are put together very thoughtfully to tell our nutrition story to a consumer in just seconds, so it’s easy for consumers to shop. We’ve used this approach for our Instinct Grain-free Biscuit treats and have noticed that as a result we get noticed much more quickly in the store setting and consumers are more engaged with the product.”
Spring Naturals, a relatively new brand, offers three planograms for retailers to choose from, said Rob Cadenhead, vice president of marketing and sales for Performance Pet Products LLC in Mitchell, S.D.

“Because we are a new product line, many retailers are using our recommendations as a guide for their store,” he said.

To help make life easier for retailers, Loving Pets in Cranbury, N.J., the maker of Barksters and Grill-icious treats, uses the same size packaging throughout its product line.

Dog treats
Planograms assist in keeping shelves stocked, organized and appealing. Stephanie Brown/BowTie Inc. at Kriser’s in Studio City, Calif.
Apart from producing planograms, Eric Abbey, company president, said he works with individual retailers to develop POP materials.

“A stocking stuffer section would be a great way to generate some extra sales leading up to the holidays,” Abbey commented. “We have supported BOGO promotions (Buy one Get One), and offer individual retailers special discounts to generate incremental sales. Clip strips of treats at the register are also great with a card callout like ‘Treat me!’”.
At The Salty Dog in Pacific Beach, Wash., owner Ann Kjelsberg does most of her ordering online, so there is little interaction with vendors to exchange ideas or even discuss planograms.

“However, I must say, those vendors that do actually call to follow up an order are usually great about offering suggestions for new products to try and often give ideas how to promote them, too,” Kjelsberg said.

When it comes to shelving product, manufacturers can be an invaluable resource to retailers, said Holly Sher, co-owner with her husband, Joel, of Evangers Dog & Cat Food Co. in Wheeling, Ill.

“Our interaction with our retailers varies from region to region and on the size of the store itself,” Sher noted. “A good manufacturing partner can help retailers find space that they may think they don’t have, and offer their customers more assortment. Depending on if treats are pegged or standing on a shelf, it’s important to offer retailers versatility so they can easily move treats around to different sections of the store.

“Our sales representatives work with retailers when asked to remerchandise a shelf space so that they can offer their customers more SKUs,” she continued. “They also like to make suggestions, which I believe retailers appreciate. For example, this holiday season a front-end display for treats that says ‘Don’t Forget Me This Holiday Season’ with a photo of pets under a Christmas tree will attract customer attention and make them stop and think about their own pets and friends’ pets, too.”


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