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Avian Marketplace: Blueprints for Success

Posted: Nov. 21, 2011, 12:45 p.m. EST

Customized planograms can build more profitable bird toy presentations and make resetting displays a snap.
By Cheryl Reeves

Displays catch a customer’s attention in a number of ways, from attracting with color to quickly organizing products by function, brand and price. In a profit-generating sector such as bird toys, which has so many items and parts, more pet stores are discovering the ease and efficiency of using planograms designed to fit specific needs.

Essentially, a planogram is a diagram that plots where items should be placed and how they can be merchandised. Moreover, the design schematic can be altered or expanded to suit a particular store’s square footage and customer demographic. While many manufacturers offer planograms to pet stores, some companies are in the business of custom-designing these tools in a range of price plans.

Dennis Osrow, president of Shelf Logic Software Products in Rock Hill, N.Y., said his company produces planograms for all types of manufacturers and retailers, from independents to large chain stores.
"A planogram is the difference between shooting from the hip and having a strategy,” he said. "It’s a scientific basis on which to not only calculate product placement but also offer more control in tracking sales.”

Bird toys
Photo courtesy of Tomlinson's Feed & Pets.

Osrow pointed out that when planograms are digitally designed, retailers can move items around with a point and click of their computer mouse. Store owners then can see how the displays look on their screen before they create the physical display.

"This is an innovative way to know how the presentation will look before a merchant goes about the business of physically setting it up. That saves time, money and energy,” Osrow added.

What Works and Why
Todd Nelson, manager of Parrots and Company in Stamford, Conn., can’t imagine not using a planogram, especially in the bird toy category.

"They are easy, helpful and I can even hand one to a new employee to illustrate what goes where,” said Nelson, who uses Caitec Corp.’s bird toy planograms because the manufacturer organizes toys by size, function and SKU.

For example, Nelson noted, toys sell best when grouped in small, medium and large categories. Also important is organizing foraging toys by destructibles and non-destructibles.

"With Caitec’s planograms, I can even switch out items, such as offering more bestsellers to the mix,” he said. "It’s as easy as just calling and telling them I need 10 new SKUs on a popular toy incorporated into the planogram.”

Baltimore-based Caitec strives to design the most effective planograms for customers, noted Terry Gao, company president.

"We will always talk with retailers to find out what their clientele is and what kind of birds they have so we can customize the most profit-producing planogram,” Gao said.

Nelson, however, cautioned retailers to make sure they use planograms that realistically represent their display needs.

"You don’t want to use one of those where a manufacturer just sticks in their products to fill up space,” he said. "There must be consideration about a nice mix of colors and prominently featuring bestsellers.”

Jack’s Aquarium & Pets, a chain store with 27 locations in Ohio, northern Kentucky and Indiana, uses only the planograms designed by the company’s marketing team.

Those planograms play a key role in communicating quickly what toys will be decreasing or increasing facings, reported Amanda Westsall, manager of Jack’s Harrison, Ohio, location.

"Our planograms are created to make the best and profitable use of space and products for us, rather than for one or two manufacturers,” she said, noting that fresh planograms are issued periodically from corporate headquarters to introduce new toys. Other planograms are created specifically for themed and holiday displays.

As a retailer and manufacturer, Concetta Ferragamo has had such great results using display planograms in her store, Parrot Safari in Londonderry, N.H., that she creates them for retailers who purchase from her company, Parrot Safari Toy Factory in Binghamton, N.Y.

"Planograms are a fantastic blueprint to have as long as they are well thought out,” Ferragamo said.
Before she goes to the drawing board, Ferragamo interviews retailers to understand every aspect of their stores’ business style.

"I ask them if they sell more toys for large birds or small,” Ferragamo said. "Also, what are the bestselling toys? Shelf size, endcap size? The more information I have, the better I can tailor the design to enhance groupings and make it all display pleasingly to the eye.”

How Do Planograms Help?

Dennis Osrow, president of Shelf Logic Software Products in Rock Hill, N.Y., said business owners who use planograms report many advantages, including and most importantly, higher profits.

Moreover, he said, a recent study taken by the National Association for Retail Merchandising Services found that sales improve when well-designed planograms are used consistently.

Osrow noted that pet specialty retailers can get started with small, affordable planograms that meets well-defined goals. Furthermore, he said, strategizing displays using cutting-edge technology can help a store owner take a giant step into 21st-century marketing.

Here are the top benefits of planograms, according to Osrow:

1. Improved financial performance of product assortments.

2. Higher consumer appeal of product displays.

3. Greater efficiency of shelf space allocations.

4. Easier and faster inventory resets.

5. Stronger, more effective marketing through targeted displays.

While planograms can be very specific, they also can be flexible in order to embellish a display with a new line.

"A planogram is really a guide that helps storeowners along until they can do it themselves,” Ferragamo pointed out. "I can do a master planogram or small planograms. It’s about whatever works for the client.”

Gao recommended that, depending on space constraints,  retailers display a variety of toys in different sizes, material and types. He said Caitec offers planograms for filling a two-by-two-foot space with foraging toys and a range of planogram sizes for destructible toys.
"Never leave one or two toys on the wall,” he added. "Always have at least four to six toys displayed on hooks.”

Better Planograms Wanted
Retailers stated they would be more inclined to use a manufacturer’s planogram if it was more than a diagram on a piece of paper. Better yet, they said they would welcome a sales rep to demonstrate why and how the planogram truly optimizes displays.

"If a manufacturer focused on our needs here, I’d be more inclined to look into using some of their planograms,” said Rick Preuss, co-owner of Preuss Pets in Lansing, Mich. "Or if they offered more plans for stores that don’t purchase their products hook, line and sinker.”

Preuss noted that at his 25,000-square-foot store, displays get tweaked often to keep consumers interested. He uses his own display ideas and those of the many marketing interns he employs, but he invites manufacturer input as well.

For example, Preuss said, Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. dispatched a consultant to look at his displays and offer advice. The consultant helped rearrange groupings and locations, he said.

"This was very generous and helpful support,” Preuss noted, adding that, "as a result, sales improved.”

Mary Wyld, president of Wyld’s Wingdom, a distributor based in Norfolk, Va., advised retailers to request planograms that feature bestsellers and that group toys by size, no matter the brand.

"No doubt, bird toys are a detail item,” Wyld said. "Without effective placement, they can be lost in the jumble.

"An effective selection of toys can be greatly enhanced by the placement process, so it is really a two-pronged game: selection and placement,” Wyld continued. "Even the best planogram with mediocre items will not yield great results. With quality items and good placement, a planogram is a very helpful tool.”

Besides great-looking displays that make sense and attract consumer attention, pet specialty retailers should keep up on innovations in the bird toy category to optimize sales.

"Always be aware of what is trendy,” Gao emphasized. "Foraging toys, including destructibles, indestructibles and foraging devices, continue to be hot items. If you are not selling foraging toys, you are definitely missing the opportunity to increase profits significantly.”


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