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7:28 AM   July 31, 2014
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Gifts That Sell

Calendar makers offer low-risk, high-appeal products
By Janet Randall

Courtesy of Dogonfunny and Sellers Publishing

Retailers are usually most comfortable stocking items that have constant demand and a consistent sales history. Seasonal items, such as pet calendars, require more effort for the pet retailer than inventory staples and are perceived to have a higher risk factor.

Questions arise about when to order, how much to order and what to do with overstock. And, as always, there is concern about finding the space to display seasonal items. Unsettling, too, is the fact that publishers tend to sell across more distribution channels than most pet industry suppliers.

To capture a competitive advantage, small pet retailers and boutiques like to set themselves apart by offering unique items not found in big-box stores. Calendar publishers, however, typically sell not only to big-box pet stores but also to huge national chains, such as Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.

“People don’t come into my store to buy calendars,” said Gayle Dalton-Smith, owner of Precious Pets in Norcross, Ga.  “My store is in close proximity to Barnes and Noble, so I find it very hard to compete.”

Opportunity Awaits
In spite of these drawbacks, the bottom line is that pet retail customers are passionate about their pets. Publishers know this and target that emotion with the touching images they use in their calendars.

“The demand for physical calendars is as strong as ever despite the proliferation of digital technology,” said Andy Sturtevant, public relations and marketing manager for Sellers Publishing of Portland, Maine. “The impetus for this phenomenon is art imagery. Whether in their office or kitchen or locker, people like to personalize their space with heart-warming art that they have fallen in love with.”

 Lori Moreland, owner of the Pet Emporium in Arvada, Colo., has been very successful with breed-specific gift items in her store.

“Last Christmas I far exceeded my sales expectations on gift items like breed-specific ornaments and calendars,” she said. “I ran out too soon. This year I will order more and display them sooner.” 

Jill Gizzio of the retail store Shop by Breed in Westchester, Pa., said ordering calendars for her store was a no-brainer.

“I was offered full credit for anything I didn’t sell, so there was no risk for me,” she said. “I don’t get that with any of my other suppliers.”

8 Calendar Tips for Retailers

1. Take advantage of book-industry incentives to stock 2009 pet calendars.
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2. Display calendars by June or early July.
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3. Replenish best-sellers often.
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4. Focus on the 20 to 30 breeds on the AKC’s most popular list.
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5. Don’t limit the choices to wall calendars.
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6. Don’t limit the choices to breed-specific calendars.
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7. Tailor the calendar selection to the store’s customer base.
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8. Research lots of companies to find unique selections that might not be at the store down the street.

Mike Brown, owner of Browntrout Publishing in San Mateo, Calif., thinks  small mom-and-pop stores sometimes put themselves into a pigeonhole with their thinking on gift items such as calendars.

“They fall into the trap of thinking it’s too good to be true because they aren’t accustomed to standard book industry policies,” he said. “Deferred payment terms, small order minimums, shared markdown policies and fully refundable overstock guarantees allow for higher retail margins.” 

Strategy for Calendar Sales
When choosing among the thousands of pet calendars available, there’s no secret to determining what the hot items will be for next season. So how does a retailer go about stocking and merchandising pet calendars?

“Since pet calendars are an impulse gift item, retailers should pre-order during the first quarter of the year to display them in June,” said Jeremy Petrie, sales director of Willow Creek Press of Minocqua, Wis. “Our minimum order requirement is only 18 calendars and retailers have until the following March to return them for full credit.”

Brown said the key for small retailers is to bring in a small number of calendars early in the season and then replenish hot sellers.

“Although there is some correlation between the AKC list of most popular dog breeds and corresponding breed-specific calendar sales, they do not necessarily mimic the list,” said Brown. “But the top 20 to 30 breeds listed with the AKC have been consistent over many years, so retailers should focus on those.”

In addition to wall calendars, most publishers offer a variety of calendar styles, such as mini calendars, boxed daily calendars and weekly engagement calendars. They also offer a variety of wall and floor racks for calendar display. 

“Pet owners are loyal to their breed,” Brown said. “You don’t have to display every calendar you have selected for the season. We know that people will dig through a stack of calendars to find their particular breed of interest.”

Moreland said she knows her customers well. 

“It was relatively easy for me to determine which breed calendars to order. To be distinctive, I have recruited a European supplier who is very talented and has fabulous art.”

Sturtevant said some of his company’s  best-selling calendars, entitled Cat Naps and Pooped Puppies, are themed rather than breed specific. 

This season, when customers come in to buy pet food, retailers should appeal to their passion and entice them with heart-warming 2009 pet calendars. Then they won’t go down the street to buy them. <HOME>


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