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Avian Marketplace: Bird Housing Goes Mod

Posted: Nov. 19, 2009

Pet Product News ArchivesRetailers can up habitat sales by promoting multipurpose modular cages and their space-saving advantages.
By Nikki Moustaki

Modular bird habitats and cages have been around for many years, but they haven’t been updated much until recently. Cages that allow for flexibility in size or design are considered “modular.” Knowledge of trends in this product category—as well as use of effective strategies in choosing, displaying and selling these items—can be key to moving modular habitats off the shelves.

“Modular habitats allow customers to change the layout or design of the bird’s home without having to go out and buy another cage,” said Lisa Zierfuss, marketing manager for Prevue Pet Products Inc. in Chicago. “Depending on the type of habitat, some of them can be converted from solid-roof cages to playtop cages, or converted from divided breeding cages to open flight cages. The trend is toward habitats that can be used for sleep, play, breeding and regular everyday use. Customers want to buy one truly multipurpose cage that allows their pets to perform a variety of functions.”

Retailers have taken notice of these new modular-habitat options. Richard Horvitz, president of Golden Cockatoo Exotic Bird Boutique in Deerfield Beach, Fla., made note of a line of new modular cages from Super Pet while he was attending the 2009 SuperZoo pet industry trade show this September in Las Vegas.

Bird cage
Modular habitats create options for bird owners who want to tailor cages to their own birds’ habits.
“These had a removable play gym, were for budgies and cockatiels, and were well designed and appeared to be easy to clean,” said Horvitz, referring to Super Pet’s Habitat Defined Avian Enrichment Homes. “I was told that the plastic that they were manufactured with had a special additive that made them more sanitary than ordinary plastic. They also had add-on attachments, which could be used for any small cage, not just their cages. These attachments were cleverly designed to provide and encourage foraging for the birds. I like the attachments because [retailers] can continually sell items to put inside of these attachments.”

Mary Wyld, president of Norfolk, Va.-based distributor Wyld’s Wingdom, also mentioned the new habitats with modular attachments, as well as their benefit to both birds and a retailer’s bottom line.

“There has been a great awakening regarding habitats that enrich the birds’ lives,” Wyld said. “These new cages have capitalized on emphasizing learning, playing and treat dispensing to enrich the experience of the bird by developing add-on pods for specific purposes.”

Modular cages are all about creating options. Bird customers seem to want to tailor cages to their own birds’ habits.

“Some clients who have gone ‘bird crazy’ need stackable units due to space limitations,” Horvitz said. “Featherland makes a stainless steel cage with an optional play gym and exterior feeders—it’s well made, if not expensive, but it’s one of the best cages we have offered to our clients.”

Dave Kramer, owner of DJ Feathers Aviary in Chantilly, Va., said modular cages are a more cost-effective solution to keeping birds. Starting out small and adding on as a flock grows may be better for the consumer than making a heavy investment up front. Kramer said modular growth abates a large part of the financial risk.

“Many of the modular cages have been well engineered to allow for easy assembly as well as function,” Kramer added. “With built-in doors for nesting boxes, a pet cage could be adapted to facilitate breeding. Stackable cages make good use of small spaces.”

Saving space is also part of the “mod style” in birdcages—stackable cages and those with dividers are helpful for people with several birds.

“Consumers like combination and space-saving features when incorporated into larger cages,” Wyld said. “In smaller cages, it’s fun to add components and customize the habitat for smaller birds. Also, several brands of modular cages have see-through clear panels so that the bird is easily viewed and enjoyed.”

Retailers can keep cost and space limitations, bird owners’ needs and habitat quality in mind when stocking and selling modular cages.

“When selecting a modular habitat to stock, retailers should focus their attention on the needs of their customers, and safety is always top on the list,” said Michael Clark, product development manager for the Super Pet Brand, a division of Central Avian and Small Animal in Elk Grove Village, Ill. “Durable, high-impact materials offer peace of mind and reliability. Look for a habitat that will provide solutions to challenges your customer may face, such as ease of cleaning and transport.”

Clark said limited space is also a hurdle that consumers are looking to conquer with a bird habitat.

“Look for features like cage-top activity centers and enrichment walls that maximize the use of small spaces for consumers living in smaller homes, apartments and condos,” Clark recommended. “Large doors for easier access are a consumer favorite.”

Clark added that cost is a factor in selling modular habitats, and that the store should carry affordable items that are also high in quality.

“In order for a habitat to be affordable, it must not only fit within the financial parameters of a consumer’s budget but must also fulfill all or most of their needs,” Clark said. “A ‘cheap’ or low-cost habitat, though it often meets budget requirements, usually lacks the essential features and benefits required to foster a successful pet experience. An unsuccessful experience breeds negative word-of-mouth and reduces repeat business.”

Since modular bird habitats and cages now come with a variety of accessories and add-ons, retailers should consider carrying everything available to the consumer for a particular product line.

“Display the unit completely decked out for demo purposes so that the customer can see the accessories demonstrated for ease of use by the sales associate,” Wyld advised. “And be sure to stock all the accessories, or else why sell the system at all? It’s very frustrating for the purchaser to see a cool add-on for the unit only to discover that the store does not carry it.”

The modular trend may represent the future of avian housing, offering affordable and entertaining opportunities for both consumers and their feathered friends. <HOME>

Nikki Moustaki, MA, MFA, animal trainer, writer and pet-industry expert, has published more than 38 books of nonfiction, primarily about pets and their training and care.

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