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6:56 AM   April 25, 2015
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Green Retailing Covers Beds

What makes a pet bed environmentally friendly?
By Scott and Ann Springer

Courtesy of Petmate

The biggest buzzword in consumer goods these days is “green,” but it’s not the color that’s all the rage. Instead, the impact a product has on the environment grabs consumers’ attention.

But not all products are created equal and the term “green” varies in definition, so it may be confusing for conscientious consumers to know which products are best for their pets and Mother Earth, says Michelle Hedges, president of Bella Creature Comforts LLC, a Houston-based manufacturer.

Hedges calls a product green when it features any or all of these qualities: It’s made from recycled items, keeps byproducts from going to landfills, doesn’t put a strain on natural resources, has a low footprint or otherwise lessens the impact on the environment.

“There are a number of factors that determine if a product is green,” Hedges says. “But sometimes the term is misused.”

What Makes a Bed Green?
Products may even come in shades of green or have differing levels of eco-friendliness, says Spencer Williams, president of West Paw Design, a Bozeman, Mont.-based manufacturer.

Four Tips for Selling Green Pet Beds

Once a retailer has stocked shelves full of beds made of materials even Mother Nature herself would approve of, consumers still have to become excited about buying them. Here are four tips for getting more green from green beds.

1. Understand what makes the beds on the shelf green. Not all pet beds are green for the same reasons. Letting the consumers know what’s inside and out will help them make their final selection.

2. Use signage to draw customers to these specialty snooze spots. If they can’t see that it’s environmentally friendly, they won’t understand why they should buy it.

3. Break the stereotype that green beds aren’t sanitary.
Ask manufacturers about their testing and manufacturing procedures and then pass that information on to your consumers to dispel any myths.

4. Highlight a pet bed on an endcap or with other like-minded products. Cross-merchandising green products from several categories can increase sales.

“Having a product that minimizes the impact on the environment and ideally regenerates fibers from already-used materials has a two-fold benefit,” Williams says. “You keep those used materials out of the landfill and you save on drilling and using oil to make it from virgin materials.”

For example, a pet bed with an outer covering constructed from recycled cotton fiber saves farmland from producing new cotton. The recycled cotton fiber commonly comes from trimmings from human clothing factories that would otherwise be discarded, Hedges says.
The interior may also be green because it’s made from recycled soda bottles, which gives the bed some spring and prevents clumping, Hedges says.

Organic materials range from cotton to buckwheat filling, Williams says.

“More organic beds are on the market now than ever,” he adds.

Beds should also be washable to be considered green, says Chip Sammons, owner of Holistic Pet Center, a Clackamas, Ore., retail shop.

“It needs to be washable inside and out, or people will constantly feel like it’s time to go out and buy a new bed when the old one gets smelly,” Sammons says.

Environmentally and Pet Friendly?
Hedges advises retailers that consumers shopping for bedding typically look for three qualities in a bed: eco-friendliness, ability to be washed and comfort.

“If you buy green products with these things in mind, and in colors that your customer base will love, then it’s easy to sell them,” Hedges says.

Green-washed Pet Beds

Products in this category have become so popular that it has been “green washed,” with lots of me-too products hitting the marketplace, says Spencer Williams, president of West Paw Design in Bozeman, Mont.

Retailers should look carefully at authenticity and quality and ask themselves a few questions before they order a fleet of fluffy beds, he advises. He gives these tips:

1 What does the word “green” mean to this manufacturer? What is green to one company pales in comparison to its competitor.

2 How durable is the product? Products that can’t take a beating just end up in the trash.

3 Does the packaging help sell the product? Consumers who understand the benefits of an eco-friendly product have fewer qualms about shelling out the extra cash to buy an organic or green bed.

4 Does the company stand behind its products? Retailers should have all the support they need from the manufacturer in order to sell, and even return, products if necessary.

Comfort and color are top concerns for consumers, Williams says.

“They try to visualize themselves on the bed and wonder if their dog or cat will like it,” he adds.

Sammons only stocks products in his shop that receive his green seal of approval. He believes these products have become more mainstream since the 1960s, when environmentally friendly products for humans were on the fringe and were virtually nonexistent in the pet industry.

“Now that these products are more reasonably priced, consumers have better access to them,” Sammons says.

Alerting customers that a shop carries sustainable products is essential in differentiating these beds from their less eco-friendly counterparts, Williams says.

“These products tend to be a bit more expensive,” he says. “But with quality education and good displays, these price concerns can easily be overcome.”

Some customers may perceive a green pet bed to be less hygienic, Williams says. To overcome this barrier, Williams recommends that retailers educate customers about the testing procedures the beds undergo before they hit the market as well as the manufacturing methods used.

“People have to be comfortable with that, and retailers should post those things for consumers and educate their staff,” Williams says.

As consumer awareness increases about this product segment, sales of these products will continue to grow, Sammons says.

“The more practical our industry becomes toward doing things in a green fashion, the better off we’ll be,” he says. “We should do whatever we can to attract the masses to go even one step better.”

Consumers know that their purchasing habits hold power, Williams says.

“People are looking for ways they can make changes, and one easy way to do that is with their purchasing dollars,” he says.

Today’s consumer is aware that natural resources are limited, Hedges says.

“People are more aware of the environment as well as product recalls and are more conscious of what chemicals their pets are lying on and consuming,” she adds. <HOME>

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