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Avian Marketplace: Help Create a Birder’s Backyard

Posted: Feb. 24, 2012, 9:30 p.m. EST


Retailers can offer customers the chance to draw nature in and connect with local wildlife.
By Lizett Bond

Pet humanization is a phenomenon continuing to gather momentum, and pet retailers witness this emotional attachment in customers daily. But what about encouraging customers to view wild birds, or fish in a pond, as pets, further enhancing the pet “owning” experience, and providing consumers with another reason to visit retailers for purchases of related items?

The National Audubon Society cites a statistic of more than 100 North American bird species supplementing their natural diets with birdseed, suet, fruit and nectar obtained from feeders. Bird feeders and houses provide the means to deliver this sustenance, as birdwatchers attract feathered friends to the backyard.

Wild bird seed
Retailers can tap into the wild bird market by offering a selection of bird seed and feeders. Photo by Sherri L. Collins.

Bird watching in the United States is the second-largest backyard industry behind gardening, according to Kirk Devries, owner of The Backyard Bird Company, an online store based in Punta Gorda, Fla., that offers birdhouses and wild bird supplies.

Moreover, given the current economy, baby boomers are retiring to their backyard to enjoy these hobbies, Devries added.

“People are passionate about their dogs and cats, but right behind that they are feeding the birds and bringing them to the backyard,” he said.

To keep them coming back, birds require a variety of quality seed as well as fresh water for drinking and bathing. Enthusiasts are implementing an array of methods to entice birds into the garden, including establishing small woodlands, and setting up feeders and ponds.

In this way, avian enthusiasts, considering wild birds as outdoor pets, are seeking higher quality birdseed to attract a wider variety of species and in greater numbers. Devries noted that gourmet birdseeds eliminate waste, adding that the largest demographic in bird watching, baby boomers, are requesting these high-quality foods.

“A bag of mixed seed from a big-box store will have some black oil sunflower seeds mixed with pellets, which the birds will not eat,” he said. “The waste attracts rats and bugs as it is kicked to the ground.”

For this reason, key selling points include stocking a comprehensive selection of feed and feeders. At Pet Pantry Warehouse, with three locations in Connecticut and New York, general manager Emery Kriegsman noted that in order to respond to the needs of all customers, the store carries several brands of birdseed comprising a selection and range of qualities.

“Our best-selling line of feed is Lyric, which is one of the higher quality wild bird foods,” he said.

Kriegsman added that squirrel guard or squirrel-proofing products are also in the mix.

“If you don’t have the right feeder, the squirrels will get into the food and you won’t have feed left for your birds,” he said.

Devries agreed, recommending products from Brome Bird Care, based in Knowlton, Quebec, Canada, which offers 100 percent recyclable Squirrel Buster squirrel-proof feeders.

Industry Voices
How do you effectively market wild bird products in your store?

“We are run in-store specials on our wild bird mixes. We send out information about the specials in emails to our customers and display items on an endcap.”
Scott Click, owner of Tomlinson’s Pet Supplies in Austin, Texas

“A lot of bird stores offer seminars, invite the neighborhood and say, ‘Hey, we are giving a wild bird class.’ Because I am an online store, I do newsletters. Our newsletters are full of information. Education is a good way to market.”
Kirk Devries, owner of The Backyard Bird Company in Punta Gorda, Fla.

“Most of the time, wild bird customers start out small and progress to something big and are looking for a bargain. If you have a Club Pet or store membership plan, you might offer specials there.”
Diana Cereceda-Rivera, manager of California Pets in Orange, Calif.

Tomlinson’s Pet Supplies, with six locations in the Austin, Texas area, offers a custom mix of wild bird seed, owner Scott Click said.

“We have been talking about increasing our stock of wild bird product,” he said. “I’m not sure if this is a new trend or something we have been missing out on.”

For those retailers looking to get into offering bird feed, the decision potentially offers additional sales opportunities.

“Definitely, food is a jumping point for retailers wishing to get into wild bird feeding,” Kriegsman said. “It’s the most consumable thing, and if you are in a heavy suburban area with a lot of backyards, the sky is the limit.”

Additionally, luring these fine-feathered friends includes keeping lush and healthy flora from properly and naturally pollinated trees, flowers and vegetables.

Bees serve this purpose, and Margriet Dogterom, owner of Beediverse in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada, noted that while garden centers and wild bird stores carry her products, including houses, nesting tubes, educational materials and nonaggressive mason bees, she has noted the beginning of a trend as pet retailers are also stocking Beediverse products.

“Why would you have a pond or feed your birds?” she said. “The reason is to maintain a diversity of animal life in your garden, and that means a healthier garden. Bees are part of that diversity.”

Similarly, Scott Cohen, owner of The Green Scene Landscaping in Northridge, Calif., and co-author of “Petscaping,” suggested butterfly gardens kits and seed packs as a means to create a butterfly garden.

“What better way to surround yourself with color, butterflies and a variety of birds?” he said. “Dogs are especially entertained by a parade of winged visitors in the yard.”

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