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Dog Marketplace: Encourage Healing, Boost Sales

Posted: March 25, 2014, 9:15 a.m. EDT


Many dogs owners look to cut veterinary costs by treating minor wounds at home, but all dog owners can benefit from stocking a supply of first-aid products, making this category a solid bet for retailers.

By Nikki Moustaki

Wound care and first-aid products might not top the average pet consumer’s shopping list, but with the right conversation and display techniques, retailers can make these items a priority for dog owners.
 
Jennifer DiGrazia, CEO of PawFlex Inc. in New York, said that she has seen her company’s bandages used with wounds, surgical sites, hot spots, fungus, bug bites and skin damaged from radiation and chemotherapy.

"Wound care has changed over the past few years, because consumers want to take care of small problems at home rather than rush their animal to the veterinarian,” said Brook West, marketing coordinator for Reber Ranch in Kent, Wash. "With the recent economic downturn, customers are trying to find ways to cut costs.”

Eric Hodel, sales and brand manager for Unleashed Life, which offers the Apawthikare brand in Springfield, Mo., said that since entering this category two years ago, he has been overwhelmed by the response.

Dog First Aid
Dog owners can benefit from stocking a supply of first-aid products. Carrie Brenner/i-5 Publishing at Pet Country

"Through feedback and sales results, we see that this category is definitely not going away,” Hodel said.
"Like any category in the pet industry, there’s always room for new and innovative products.”

At the time of this writing, Unleashed Life planned to launch two new Apawthikare first-aid and wound care products at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., this year, Liquid Bandage and Anti-Itch Spray. It also is combining its Sanitize, Detox and Relieve formulas into an all-in-one spray.

There has been significant growth in this segment due to consumer education and prohibitive veterinary costs, along with the emergence of the pet-sitting industry and pet first-aid classes, said Ron Shay, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Dr. Emmo’s Pet First Aid in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"Consumers are more cognizant of a ‘first response’ to animal wound care,” said Shay. "Time is of the essence, and pretreatment prior to a possible veterinary visit is recommended.”

What’s Trending?
Wound access restrictions via neck and headwear are getting a great deal of attention right now, said Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif.

"ProCollar, Comfy Cone and Remedy+Recovery are just a few of the companies and products that address this need,” Grow said. "There used to be only a couple of different options; now there are dozens.”

West agreed that products that keep pets away from wounds are trending.

"The customer’s main priority when dealing with a wound is keeping their pet comfortable,” West said. "An e-collar is often vital to the wound-healing process, and we have brought in several different brands that allow the pet to be more comfortable while keeping it from further irritating the wound.”

Consumers are becoming more conscious of product side effects and are looking for all-natural products, Shay said.

Grow runs an all-natural, holistic, organic-oriented store, and she tends to offer those types of products to her customers.

On the Alert
"The challenge facing all pet-related first-aid manufacturers is to create a proactive you-need-to-be-prepared approach to pet wound care,” said Ron Shay, executive vice president of sales and marketing for Dr. Emmo’s Pet First Aid in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Most people are prepared from a human perspective of wound care, but there’s an uphill battle to get pets prepared.”
One solution to this, according to Denise Fleck, founder and president of Burbank, Calif.-based Sunny-dog Ink, which offers pet first-aid kits, is to provide in-store workshops, demonstrations, or full pet first-aid and CPR classes. 
"In these classes, people obtain the skills and purchase the necessary products,” Fleck said. "Stores need to make people realize that first aid isn’t for if something happens—we must be prepared for when emergencies do occur.”
Try holding pet first-aid classes in conjunction with an adoption event, or holding monthly training classes through the American Red Cross, said Jane Bell, owner of Pet Portables, a first-aid kit manufacturer in New York.
"Bringing in a local expert would be an effective and not-overwhelming way to educate the customer,” Bell said.—NM 

"Our holistic health and medical department has grown steadily and tremendously by request over the last few years,” said Grow. "We carry full lines from Glacier Peak Holistics and Herbsmith. Crisis Care Paste from Complete Natural Nutrition is always on hand. For bandaging or protecting open wounds, we carry selections from PawFlex and 3M. One of our favorite lines is the Healers line from Bowserwear—it’s extremely well-made and animal friendly.”

Marketing and Promotions
Grow suggests grouping first-aid and wound care products in the same area by "fix.”

"People need to know what their options are without having to go from aisle to aisle,” Grow said. "Attractive, brightly lit areas of product exhibition work best, inviting touch, label reading and inquiry.”

One of the best areas to display first-aid and wound care products is near sport and outdoor dog supplies, such as backpacks and life vests, West said. 

"Dogs that are involved in an active lifestyle with their owners tend to be exposed to more dangers,” West said.

Jane Bell, owner of Pet Portables in New York, said that visual aids are a good way to grab a customer’s attention, and that keeping small first-aid kits by the register works well. The company is launching EGO: Emergency to Go, a clip-on pouch that includes products for immediate first-aid care and has room for waste bags and a set of keys.

Retailers can use stuffed animals, such as dogs and cats, to display first-aid items, said Denise Fleck, founder and president of Sunny-dog Ink, a Burbank, Calif., maker of pet first-aid kits.

"Having that animal adorned with products included in the kit can catch a consumer’s eye and help them understand the need,” she said. "Gauze and flex wrap used as an ear bandage on a stuffed model, electrolyte replenisher displayed in a water bowl, paw cream next to a paw raised or sitting on rough/hot terrain.”

She also recommends leaving a kit open in-store so customers can see what is inside, including the instruction manual.

"Merchandising is the most critical part of promoting these products, far more important than other forms of marketing, because people don’t think about these products until they really need them,” said Barbara Denzer, vice president of Cardinal Pet Care in Azusa, Calif. "No one wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Gee, it would be fun to buy my pet a recovery collar.’”

For this reason, Cardinal Pet Care created the Remedy+Recovery Center, which features a collection of its first-aid products, including the E-Collar and Stay Rite collar.

"This highly visual and memorable display draws attention and builds customer awareness of the first-aid solutions that are available for their pets,” Denzer said. "When these solutions are needed, the customer thinks first of going to your store.”

First-aid and wound care items should be marketed year-round, not just for the holidays and during camping and travel season, Fleck said.

"Just as important as the need for bowls, food, leashes and bedding, pet parents need to be prepared from day one with first-aid supplies and stay prepared for the life of their pet,” she said.

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