Promoting innovation, displaying creatively and offering special pricing can help grow avian profits.
By Cheryl Reeves
The variety of avian products on the market, from cages to toys, is so expansive that it may bewilder customers shopping for their feathered friends. With new avian products coming to market in time for the holidays, industry insiders reported that retailers must get more proactive and help customers make informed choices.
Retailers stated that they are hanging on to long-term customers and attracting new ones by focusing on strategies such as emphasizing innovation, staging more vibrant and species-specific displays, communicating with customers via social media and offering discounts and package deals.
Call Out What’s New
Pet owners have become more educated about birds’ needs because of the Internet and embrace product innovations that offer a healthier quality of life, industry sources said. Manufacturers urged that retailers be on top of the trends, too.
“For example, statistically speaking, more bird fanciers are recognizing that larger cages for their smaller birds are the way to go,” pointed out Rick Savitt, CEO of Prevue Pet Products Inc. in Chicago.
To capitalize on this particular trend, Savitt recommended that retailers put extra effort into promoting larger cages whenever possible. His company offers POP cage kits, updated planograms and upgraded packaging.
Retailers need to make time to spread the word about new products, said Jaime Whittaker, owner of ABC Birds in Humble, Texas. Blogging about trends and new products is her favorite way to connect with customers.
“I’m new to blogging but find it’s a great way to talk up innovation,” Whittaker said.
To make sure they cover the gamut of shoppers, retailers must be able to converse authoritatively with highly educated bird owners on the hunt for the next new thing.
“Customers interested in avian products also include bird breeders and people who show their birds at local competitions,” noted Tara Whitehead, marketing manager for Midwest Homes for Pets in Muncie, Ind.
The Pet Pad, a store in Cary, N.C., offers The Pet Club to get customers to open their wallets further, owner Brad Ringlien said. For an annual membership fee of $9.99, his customers receive 10 percent off all supplies as well as free wing and nail clipping.
“They can also use coupons along with the discount, so customers definitely find membership attractive,” Ringlien said.
Because shoppers love deals, Dena Tucker, president of Greenfeather Bird Supply in West Hartford, Conn., suggested that retailers group products such as toys by price and purpose and then give a discount when customers pick a few from each category.
Michael Clark, avian product development manager at Super Pet in Elk Grove Village, Ill., advised retailers to demonstrate an avian product’s practical application and ideal use by displaying it in a live animal enclosure. Further, he stated, reduce prices on some items to induce a desire to buy.
“When possible,” Clark said, “in-store product use should be accompanied by directional or promotional signage to guide the customer to the department featuring the product.”
An example, he suggested, could be “ ‘Get 10 Percent Off Foraging Toys! Visit Our Display in the Bird Department and Ask About Toys!’ ”
Clark also stressed that consumers are focused on affordability these days.
“It is worth noting that most customers genuinely want to do what is right for their bird, but many find themselves limited by budget,” he pointed out. “For this reason, it is important that set-ups are reasonably priced.”
Think Outside the Box
What's New For the Holidays?
“Sunflower Candy Cup Mini for small birds, plus a lot of new foot toys that will feature innovative textures such as balsa and organic, locally grown applewood.”
—Dena Tucker, president of Greenfeather Bird Supply
“Polly Pop Foot Toys. In the category of foraging and activity stimulating: Forage Friends Toys, Tiki Time Tube Toys and Take Out Toys. Activity accessories: perches, ladders and swings made from a variety of materials. Cages: Treat Play and Learn cages in sizes for parakeets and cockatiels. These entry-level cages offer features that make bonding, training, cleaning and interaction easier."
—Judy Heffron, senior marketing manager at SuperPet
“More large-style wrought iron cages but with closer wire spacing suitable for smaller birds.”
—Rick Savitt, CEO of Prevue Pet Products Inc.
Displays that appeal to a customer’s particular bird and its special needs are extremely popular with shoppers, sources said.
Darrell Perkins, co-owner of Fin & Feather Pet Center in Richmond, Va., said shoppers respond to products displayed out of the box. He pieces together more elaborate habitat and supply kits specialized for particular birds.
“If a parakeet owner comes into our store,” said Dominic Roever, manager at Petland in Las Vegas, “they’ll find we’ve displayed products perfect for their species of bird all together and well thought out.”
Roever noted that because parakeets love toys that feature bells and swings, such products are grouped together. For birds that prefer shredding, such as an umbrella cockatoo, a display highlights toys that fulfill those needs.
“Bird owners really appreciate that we know what their type of bird likes, and it makes shopping faster and easier for them,” Roever said.
Tucker said retailers can creatively enhance their bird toy displays in many ways. She recommended doing a Toy of the Month display for each type of bird. Another idea that works for all types of products, she said, is a Retailer’s Picks display table.
“Organizing and staging is very attractive to consumers who love to be told a visual story,” Tucker said.
According to Mary Wyld, president of Wyld’s Wingdom in Norfolk, Va., an ideal way for retailers to stimulate sales around the holidays is to thematically outfit a habitat display.
“Think Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas,” said Wyld, urging retailers to have fun decorating displays so shoppers will be attracted to everything from cages and perches to puzzles and treats.
Above all, shopping should be a feel-good experience, sources stated.
“Displaying a bird cage decked out with accessories and, most importantly, featuring happy, lively birds as models is always a big plus in avian merchandising,” summed up Whitehead.
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