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Dog Marketplace: Plan for Pests

Posted: April 17, 2014, 9:40 a.m. EDT

Use displays, promotions and education to call attention to flea and tick control products.

By Hilary Daninhirsch

It’s important for consumers to understand their options when it comes to preventing and fighting fleas and ticks, and proper merchandising strategies can help.

Flea and tick items can be considered seasonal; merchandising these products is all about timing. Some retailers, however, recommend year-round treatments.

"We are in a predominantly warmer area, and the flea and tick season tends to start sooner and run longer than in many other places, so this is a topic of constant conversation,” said Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif.

Even regions with colder climates face new challenges with fleas and ticks.

"The length of flea and tick season seems to get longer every year,” said Heather Blum, co-owner of Petagogy in Pittsburgh. "Many vets in our area attribute this to warmer weather, and flea and tick populations aren’t dying off as early as they used to.

Flea and Tick Products
By using the right mix of displays, education and promotions, retailers can call attention to flea and tick products and boost sales in this category. Katie Ingmire/i-5 Publishing at Yorba Linda Feed Store

"We see the highest sales of tick products during spring and summer,” Blum added. "However, we have been recommending that customers consider some sort of flea and tick prevention year-round.”

This philosophy is followed by Toni Rodrigues, owner of Sweet Pea Natural Pet Foods in South Windsor, Conn.

"We also sell products that can be used all year (herbal supplements) that you continue to use in pets’ food as it gradually builds in their systems to keep fleas and ticks away,” she said.

Strategic Product Placement
Furry Face’s flea and tick products are nontoxic and include combs, tick remover tools, shampoos, topicals, sprays and environmental treatments, Grow said.

"We have an allergy or ‘itchy’ section that incorporates products that help alleviate symptoms caused by environmental irritants,” she said. "The flea/tick/mite-related products are in line with this section.”

Proper signage is important, said Bill Greene, owner of Reber Ranch in Kent, Wash.

"Our flea and tick products are displayed in a case in between our grooming salon and shampoo selection,” he said. "Having a large sign made for the top of the case has been successful in attracting customers.”
Espree Animal Products, a Grapevine, Texas, company, manufactures Flea & Tick Shampoo and Flea & Tick Pet Spray for dogs and cats. The manufacturer’s products are displayed on floor displays, power panels and counter displays, said Lisa Jordan, sales and marketing director.

Primarily due to concerns over theft, Curt Jacques, owner of West Lebanon Feed and Supply in Lebanon, N.H., said he places expensive topicals behind the counter. He also has a Plexiglas display of flea and tick products on the counter.

"With every merchant it’s very critical to maintain some sort of consistency and maintain endcaps for the seasons,” he said. 

Best Sellers
At Furry Face in Redlands, Calif., Wondercide is the No. 1 selling flea and tick product, said owner Lorin Grow.
Pittsburgh folks who shop at Petagogy prefer Sentry’s Natural Defense Natural Flea & Tick Squeeze-On, available in formulas for cats and dogs, Healthy Dogma’s Flee Flea Flee and Ark Naturals’ Flea Flicker! Tick Kicker!, said Heather Blum, co-owner.
Fewer folks are going for flea collars, choosing topicals instead, said Curt Jacques, owner of West Lebanon Feed and Supply in Lebanon, N.H. He sells a lot of Spectra Sure from Durvet; the Ticked Off spoon is another best-seller at his store, he said.
Topical sprays and all-natural yard sprays are the biggest sellers at Sweet Pea Natural Pet Foods in South Windsor, Conn., though the store sells a large amount of shampoos and conditioners, said Toni Rodrigues, owner.
Popular products at Reber Ranch in Kent, Wash., are Bayer’s Advantage and K9 Advantix, while bestselling natural remedies are boric acid and diatomaceous earth powders, said Bill Greene, owner.
At Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore., owner Chip Sammons’ best-selling products are FleaGo, boric acid-based crystals designed to kill fleas in the carpet, followed by diatomaceous earth and beneficial nematodes products, Ark Naturals’ Flea Flicker! Tick Kicker!, and then Mad About Organics’ topical treatments and flea sprays.—HD

There is a 32-foot seasonal aisle that runs through the center of West Lebanon Feed and Supply, and at the beginning of the flea and tick season, it’s important to have those products up front, he said.

Jacques said he recommends progression of sale, starting customers with premise sprays, and then showing them what other products should follow.

Absorbine, a brand of W.F. Young in East Longmeadow, Mass., a leader in the equine market, has recently created a line of UltraShield products specifically for dogs. The products include EX Insecticide & Repellent Flea & Tick Control for Dogs, Green Natural Fly Repellent For Use on All Dogs and EX Insecticide & Repellent Carpet & Surface Spray for Dogs.

"We have developed Flea and Tick Solution Displays with full color graphics and a complete assortment of our products,” said Kenneth Oh, director of the company’s pet care division. "This display measures 18 inches wide by 12 inches deep and can easily be placed on a counter or available seasonal shelf space.”

Knowledge and Conversation
Although many veterinarians will provide information to pet owners about flea and tick needs, it is crucial for staff to be equally well-informed to ensure that customers make educated buying decisions.

"It’s important to inform clients of what to look for when determining whether or not the fur-kid’s problems are flea and tick related or something else,” said Grow. "Dialogue is the foundation of what we do. Clients need to feel like anyone here can help and advise them correctly.”

Grow also uses Facebook and will be starting a blog this year that explains what consumers need to know about fleas and ticks, she said.

"We hold continuing education seminars, and this is something we at least touch on in every seminar,” she said.

Blum said that her store uses also social media and blogs to educate their customers on this topic.

"We also include information on flea and tick products in our monthly email newsletter,” she said.

"Since we sell alternatives to traditional flea and tick preventives, it is essential that all staff understand that these products work just as well,” added Blum.

Customers need information about the flea life cycle and how to properly use the products, said Jacques.
"The better educated you are, the more you can tell your customers and the more they’ll buy,” he said.

"If a merchant doesn’t do a good job of educating the customer, they’ll buy a product, go home and use it, and because they didn’t follow whole steps, there will be a re-infestation,” he said. "They’ll come back and they’ll say the product didn’t work,” he said.

Chip Sammons, owner of Holistic Pet Center in Clackamas, Ore., shares his knowledge via a radio program as well as through a book he wrote called "Flea Control: A Holistic and Humorous Approach,” which, he said, "explains the life cycle of a flea, then describes ways to get rid of them through diet, topically and environmentally.”

His store offers only natural products such as diatomaceous earth, pyrethrum and boric acid powders, and herbal sprays.

He tries to impart the prevention message to his customers before a flea infestation arises, and in so doing, must keep his staff informed, Sammons said.

"We constantly research and educate ourselves about the safest and most effective ways to control fleas,” he said.

Merchandising is done on an individual, customer-by-customer basis, Sammons said.

Ark Naturals, manufacturer of  Flea Flicker! Tick Kicker!, Neem "Protect” Spray and Neem "Protect” Shampoo, provides brochures, product sheets and free samples for key retail staff and also offers online training, said founder Susan Weiss.

"Our consumers understand the ingredients in our products,” said Weiss. "Social media has made it easy to educate pet guardians. We only ask that the retailers make education a primary part of training their staff.

Manufacturer Assistance
Manufacturers are there to offer merchandising assistance, particularly when consumers choose to use nonprescription treatment.

"The companies we work with provide plenty of information regarding their products,” said Rodrigues of Sweet Pea Natural Pet Foods. "We have brochures and articles pertaining to all-natural alternatives.”

Espree provides product sales sheets and catalogs for consumers, Jordan said.

"Espree’s website is informative on products, ingredients, breed profiles and grooming tips,” she added.

"The sales staff is always available by phone or email.”

Partnership with retailers has the trickledown effect of helping to educate pet owners.

"We help in-store with secondary locations and aisle signage,” said Carolyn Stichler, vice president of marketing for Sergeant’s Pet Care Products in Omaha, Neb. "We also assist in educating store associates and assist retailers with their online and web-based strategies.”

Sergeant’s will customize the educational process with the retailer, often using web-based educational programs coupled with in-store support, Stichler added.

W.F. Young’s marketing team focuses its efforts on maximizing the information a customer is able to get in as short a time as possible.

"All of our product packaging is designed so as to clearly call out the main features and benefits of the product,” said Oh. "Additionally, our display pieces are designed to reinforce this messaging as well as to use additional graphic space to communicate to the consumer how these products can benefit them. Finally, we produce sell sheets for store personnel that provide additional pieces of information and selling points in an effort to keep them as informed and educated as possible.”



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