Posted: September 24, 2013, 3:45 p.m. EDT
Retailers cash in on seasonal purchases with the "gift-ability” of avian products.
By Ramona D. Marek
The fall season puts retailers and consumers in a gift-giving state of mind for numerous winter holidays from Halloween through Christmas. New, popular and in-demand avian products that feature unique, creative and exclusive elements increase their gift-giving potential, making them suitable gifts for both pet birds and their owners.
Industry insiders agreed that toys top the list for great gifts.
"Toys are excellent tools for both enrichment and activity. They provide hours of entertainment and reduce ‘birdie boredom’ during extended inside habitat time,” said Michael Clark, brand manager, pet birds, for Kaytee Products Inc. in Chilton, Wis. "Experts have always recommended a rotating variety of toys to keep birds engaged and mentally stimulated. Purchasing an assortment of toys that feature a combination of materials, such as wood, grasses and bird acrylics, is recommended for maximum variety,” he said.
Foraging toys are a popular new trend that continues to grow within the industry, said industry insiders.
"Foraging toys complemented with highly nutritious food are always welcome gifts,” said Melanie Allen, avian product specialist with Rolf C. Hagen Inc. in Montreal. "Current recommendations from behaviorists as well as avian health practitioners insist on the concept of foraging as a ‘must do’ in maintaining good cognitive health for avian companions. The HARI (Hagen Avicultural Research Institute) philosophy is to implement foraging instincts with optimal nutritional opportunities. We suggest Tropican High Performance Parrot biscuits for large species and smaller Tropican Lifetime for smaller species.”
At Birds Unlimited in Webster, N.Y., owner Paul Lewis combines the foraging concept with the exclusivity factor into one unique and popular toy at his store.
"The Foraging Ball is a toy we make at our store using the Hol-ee Roller ball dog toy [made by JW Pet]; we add a chain and stuff the ball with things the bird can chew out,” he said. "It’s available in four different sizes, refillable, not too pricey and my customers can only get it from me. It has worked out great for us.”
All of the fun and playtime is not limited to inside the bird’s cage, nor should it be, said Clark Moore, CEO of Avian Fashions in Stafford, Va.
"Activity centers encourage healthy out-of-habitat exploration and support recommended interaction and bonding between the bird and its human family,” he said. "Having your bird outside the cage and more involved with family life without the mess allows both bird and owner to enjoy a closer relationship.”
Avian Fashions offers a novel product that eliminates bird mess. The cornerstone of their business is the FlightSuit, also known as the Bird Diaper, available in sizes petite, for parakeets, through colossal, for green wing macaws.
"We are able to dress our FlightSuits up into so many fun yet practical suits: Tux with Tails, Santa Claws, Beach Birdy and Birdy Bunny,” Clark said.
Avian Fashions also offers hoodies that provide warmth and protection, which are available for large and small birds.
"We sell hoodies throughout the year but offer special limited edition hoodies, which are very popular for the holidays,” Clark continued. "The Halloween hoodies are adorned with orange pumpkins, red and gray spiders, candy corn and white and black skulls. Our Christmas hoodies feature blue and white snowflakes, green and red plaids, peppermints and colorful stars.”
"The one thing I’d like to add as a much-needed gift for companion bird owners is the gift of camaraderie and avian education. This isn’t typically found on the pet retailer’s shelf, but it is something that many pet bird owners would really appreciate—and so would their birds. Options for this include memberships to local bird clubs or even a registration fee for many regional avian educational opportunities, such as a Parrot Festival in January (/redirect.aspx?location=http%3a%2f%2fwww.parrotfestival.org%2ffestivalinfo.html) or American Federation of Aviculture Conference (/redirect.aspx?location=http%3a%2f%2fwww.afabirds.org%2fconvention_index.shtml). An avian conference is fun and purposeful, and good avian knowledge creates a better and long lasting parrot enthusiast.”—Melanie Allen, avian product specialist, at Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp., Mansfield, Mass.
"We are introducing two versions of heated bird baths made by Birds Choice in the USA. These are especially important for our wild birds. Providing a source of water in winter is a great gift. Sometimes birds suffer more for lack of water than food. The thermostatically controlled bath, which is made from recycled materials, will only heat when the temperature drops within a range where the bath could freeze. It comes in three colors, all in a deck-mount and pedestal version. It can also be used all year round by simply unplugging the bath and wrapping the cord under the bath. The baths will carry a 4-year warranty on materials and workmanship.”—Ruth Bloedorn, co-owner, Birds Choice, Chilton, Wis.
The newest product from Avian Fashions is the Birdy Pajama; future plans include the FeatherSweater.
Lewis said other popular items at his store include the whole line of Nutri-Berries, manufactured by Lafeber in Cornell, Ill., and the Tidy Seed bird feeder, manufactured by the Louisville, Ky.-based company of the same name, which is an enclosed feeding system that hangs on the outside of the cage. He said usually people come in for one to try it out and return for a second one.
Lewis also carries a book called "African Greys” by Fran Gonzalez Sturms, which is in popular demand at his store. "For the most part, people are reluctant to buy books because they can get information off the Internet,” he said. "This book is probably one of the best out there, and it’s not widely available to people. I get it from the author herself in California, and I have her autograph it, so it’s a little different than what you’ll find in other stores, which is what I strive for.”
Richard King, president of King’s Cages International, Inc. said his company’s Feather Shine shampoo is very popular with bird owners because it not only kills lice and mites, but it also safely cleans the feathers, which may have dulled or grayed with dirt or debris.
Use Pattern Interruption and Social Media
Holiday gift purchases are time sensitive and require specific merchandising ideas.
Lewis said he often puts new items at the register so customers can see them and make impulse purchases. Allen said parrots are like children in that they go through toys and food quickly, and need to be replaced and replenished on a regular basis.
"Retailers can make their own gift baskets,” Allen said. "Offer a toy that can be used for foraging near the optimal diets. In most cases, a small bag of quality food and toy items can be bundled together as a suggested gift for under $25.”
"The most effective way to encourage seasonal gift purchases is through visual messaging and pattern interruption,” Clark said. "Many consumers enter the retail space with a mental list of needs; once these needs are fulfilled, they are off to the next location on their to-do list. Constructing an endcap or standalone seasonal display offers the visual queue required to draw attention to a product or product grouping. Placing the display in a high-traffic area of the store will interrupt your customers’ shopping pattern just enough to shift attention to the display.”
Once you have customers’ attention, "The display should feature the purpose, value and reason to buy—holiday stocking stuffers, 20 percent off bird toys, treat your bird to the gift of fun—words to that effect,” Clark continued.
He also suggested that retailers use support tactics to steer their customers toward the display—signage near animal habitats (visit our holiday display for huge savings) and employees’ scripts, such as "Don’t forget to pick out your 20 percent off bird toy.”
"If you are looking to drive traffic into the store, social media can be your friend; it is inexpensive, quick and customizable,” Clark said. "Making an announcement on your Facebook, Twitter or website will place your message directly in the hands of your customers. Remember to have fun with it and be creative; after all, it’s social media.”
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