Posted: September 25, 2013, 9:30 a.m. EDT
By P.S. Jones
Spending during the holiday season is almost as revered a tradition as the holidays themselves. Consumers are preparing for holiday gatherings or out of town guests, or making their homes comfortable during the celebrations. For consumers with pets, sprucing up the space for the holidays is an important part of the process.
Santa Cruz, Calif.-based cleaning business Sunrise Cleaning Service specializes in pet-related cleaning services and emphasizes safe and natural cleaning. Owner Tracy Taylor said that the holidays are an important time for these services because consumers want their homes in tip-top condition.
"As much as we love them, pets can be messy,” she said. "The most common issue is pet hair. I’d say other concerns are stains and odors.”
Manufacturers notice an increase in sales, too, said Bill Converse, president of Minneapolis-based CritterZone. The CritterZone is a compact and versatile air naturalizer. The natural, charged flow continuously fills the room, giving the air the power it needs to clean itself, according to the manufacturer. During the gift-giving season, a beautiful velvet gift pouch is included to make traveling with the unit even easier.
"Our experience over our 25-plus years in business has always proven the holiday season as some of our best sales months,” Converse said. "We have products that help consumers provide a fresh environment for their holiday get-togethers. Our product allows them to complement their remodeling, updating or holiday detailed cleaning before guest arrivals.”
Same Customers, More Business
Retailers often look forward to the influx of business during the winter holidays.
"It’s the best part of the year for us, retail-wise,” said Brenda Elliot, owner of It’s Raining Cats and Dogs, located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
"I would say we get a lot of people buying for their own pets,” Elliot said when asked about the possibility of cleaning products as gifts. "But I’m always surprised at how many people are buying for the pets of their family or friends.”
Elliot added that Zero Odor, Nature’s Miracle and Petastic are important sellers in the cleaning category in her store.
But don’t mistake the influx of sales to mean that a retailer will automatically see new customers. It’s often the same customers stocking up on holiday essentials and gifts.
Abdel Rios, owner of Skillman Pets, said that his Woodside, N.Y., store sees familiar faces even during the holidays.
"It’s the same people with the same pets coming in,” he said. "They always support their local stores.”
Skillman Pets was recently named one of the best pet stores in New York by ny.racked.com. Rios thinks that the store’s success has a lot to do with its close relationship with its customers.
"They recognize us. We recognize them. We know them. We know what they need,” he said, adding that when customers come in looking for home cleaning products, it’s a toss-up whether they need help deciding which product to buy. "Sometimes they ask for something, but normally we’ll direct them.”
His staff often suggests Nature's Miracle and Pet Organics Sprays to consumers.
Elliot has similar experiences with her customers.
"They pretty much have an idea or a budget,” she said.
Once her staff has that piece of information, it’s easier to help them find the product that will work for their particular situations.
Another way to steer customers to certain products is through in-store displays. A great place to start is with the manufacturers, who often offer literature and advice on displays.
Skillman Pets’ Rios goes a step further by putting together large scenes in his windows, especially for the holidays. Although his displays sometimes take months to prepare, he said it’s worth it.
"People talk about it,” he said, referring to the local news articles about his latest display, a 1940s scene. "They reminisce. It’s interesting to get the reactions.”
On the other hand, displays aren’t for every store. It’s Raining Cats and Dogs doesn’t have the floor space for it.
"We have a small store so were not able to do that,” Elliot said. "Displays really appear to people with a lot more square footage than we do.”
Some manufacturers realize this and offer smaller displays.
"CritterZone offers an eye-catching point-of-purchase display that takes up only a 12-inch-square area of counter space,” Converse said. "Included with the display is an actual working CritterZone unit, which enables the retailer to demonstrate quickly how effective CritterZone is on pet odors.”
He emphasized that consumers in this category are looking for displays that show exactly how the product works.
"An ammonia demonstration tool simulates pet urine odors, and the CritterZone eliminates that odor within 10 seconds,” he said. "It allows a consumer to quickly make an informed buying decision as they observe the process first-hand. It immediately solves a common problem that pet owners have with the elimination of pet odor.”
Safe and Effective
When choosing home cleaning products for holiday cleaning, safety is a huge concern.
Paul Smiley is the crew manager for Way’s Cleaning Service, a South Florida residential cleaning company that focuses on using eco-friendly and pet-friendly products.
"People with pets of all ages don’t want anything on the floor that might interact with the pet,” he explained, adding that customers want to avoid products that leave chemicals or residue. Instead, the company uses plant-based and organic-based cleansers.
Sunrise’s Taylor said that customers don’t want to sacrifice their pets’ health for a clean carpet. When she started the company 13 years ago, she knew that she would use products without ammonias, dyes and other harsh ingredients.
"Your environment changes your life and if you have a pet, it changes their life, too,” she said.
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