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4:55 PM   April 26, 2015
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Pick of the Litter

Inventive displays can help boost sales in the competitive cat-litter category.
By Lori Luechtefeld

Courtesy of Pet Care Systems Inc.

Few pet product categories are as competitive as cat litter. Paying particular attention to display and product promotion in this area can help specialty retailers set themselves apart in the minds of their customers.

“Every grocery store, farm outlet and dollar store carries a selection of cat litter,” says Richard Murbach, chief executive officer of UltraPet Inc. in Anderson, S.C. “For pet stores to be competitive, their staffs need to have product knowledge and be able to make intelligent comparisons of the products. Customers shopping in pet stores are typically willing to pay slightly more for products if they can receive assistance in selection and get information.”

Due to the competitive nature of the cat-litter category, pricing pressures can reduce margins, says Tom Atyeo, marketing manager for UltraPet.

“When building displays of cat litter, it is important to include accessory items that can boost sales and profits,” he says. “Cat-litter scoops, trays, tray liners and mats are items that are less competitive and can have keystone profits or better.”

Selection and Display

POPs and Demos

Litter manufacturers offer a variety of tools to help retailers optimize their displays. Such resources include demonstration DVDs, sales literature, coupons and point-of-purchase display materials.

“Custom store signage, brochures and other POP materials can generate exceptional sales from a litter display,” says Mark Hughes, general manager of Pet Care Systems Inc. in Detroit Lakes, Minn. “The key is to make them relevant and persuasive to consumers so that they will purchase the product.”

In addition, cat-litter demo kits can help answer customers’ questions by allowing them to touch and smell the litter prior to making a selection, notes Cindee Kohagen, director of sales at PlanetWise Products Inc. in Pine Bluff, Ark.

“The retailer can have a full-size demo kit featuring various litters each week or small containers of each litter they carry,” she says. “Either will give much more information to their customers.”

Cindee Kohagen, director of sales at PlanetWise Products Inc. in Pine Bluff, Ark., says it’s important for retailers to carry a complete litter selection to address customers’ varying needs and preferences.

“Don’t carry four SKUs of litter that is also sold at every grocery store down the street,” she says. “Be selective and offer unique pet specialty litters that can be supported by frequent buyer programs and special sales.”

Kim Woollard, assistant buyer for Complete Petmart, a 32-store chain headquartered in Ohio, says her stores carry a wide array of litters, from standard clay varieties to premium alternatives. The standard varieties are displayed in bulk on flats, while the premium brands are set apart from the rest.

“More and more people are asking for alternatives,” she says. “Currently, we display those in a separate area on the wall.”

When it comes to alternative brands, offering multiple sizes is a good merchandising strategy, says Mark Hughes, general manager of Pet Care Systems Inc. in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

“This is the fastest-growing—and highest-margin—litter segment,” he says.

“Adding larger sizes elevates a retailer’s value in the eyes of the customer. This leads to stronger sales and profits.”

If a display features different sizes of the same cat litter, put the larger items on the lower shelves, Atyeo recommends.

“This anchors the display from a visual perspective,” he says. “Having larger items on the lower shelves also makes it easier for the customer to shop.”
Being Creative
Hughes says the best way to merchandise cat litter, particularly a new brand, is to set up endcaps or floor displays.

“These displays can be adjacent to the litter aisle or even in the cat-food section,” he says. “Either way, off-shelf displays generally should at least double the sales rate for the brand being promoted.” 

Hughes notes that setting up a display is only the first step to a successful merchandising program.

“To really make sales soar, special pricing offers or cross promotions with other cat-related products should be part of the merchandising event,” he says. 

“If the items are on special, make sure the customer knows the price of the product and how much they are saving,” Atyeo says.

“Savings can be in percentages, dollars or both.”

John Braxton, co-owner of Braxton’s Animal Works in Wayne, Pa., says he’s found this strategy to be a successful one.

“If there’s a promotion going on, we’ll typically do an endcap display with the litter,” he says. “Those attract attention and have done very well in the past.” <HOME>

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