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Dog and Cat Marketplace: Planning for Pests

Posted: March 25, 2014, 9:05 a.m. EDT


Helping customers rid their homes of fleas and ticks means promoting quality products and explaining how and why they work.

By Cheryl Reeves

Many people facing their first flea infestation believe that all they have to do is treat their dog or cat and then the problem will be solved. The truth is, during the flea life cycle, only a small percentage of fleas actually live on the pet. The majority, in various forms of egg, larvae and pupae, are multiplying and hiding in the house in pet beds, baseboards, carpets and upholstered furniture.

It follows that retailers who understand what household flea/tick control products work best and most conveniently as well as what products control re-infestation for the longest amount of time, will win sales from grateful pet owners looking for guidance—and relief.

New Products and Sector Trends
What’s currently driving innovation in the flea and tick home control product sector is consumer demand for products that deliver a broader spectrum of control as well as treatments that effectively infiltrate specific areas of concern within the home, said Michael Albo, director of communications for Virbac Corp. in Fort Worth, Texas.

"For example, our Knockout E.S. Area Treatment is an aerosol spray for the home that kills ticks and fleas and prevents flea infestations for a full season,” Albo said. "The product also contains Nylar, an insect growth regulator (IGR), which prevents subsequent flea infestations for up to seven months.”

Knockout meets consumer demand for a broad spectrum of control because it kills fleas and ticks hidden in carpets, rugs, upholstered furniture, pet beds and pet resting areas, Albo added.

Flea and Tick Products
Flea and tick home control products. Carrie Brenner/i-5 Publishing at Pet Supply

Set to launch this spring, Sergeant’s Pet Care Products’ new Sentry Homeguard product line is designed to wreak havoc on all four stages of the flea life cycle. The new flea-fighters include a spray, carpet powder and room fogger, according to Caryn Stichler, the Omaha, Neb.-based company’s vice president of marketing. In addition to controlling infestations for seven to 12 months, the brand offers extra benefits, such as pet odor elimination and a clean, fresh scent, Stichler added.

Just in time for flea and tick season, Bayer is expanding its Advantage brand this spring to include a new household flea and tick control product line, said Lauren Dorsch, senior communications representative for animal health at Bayer Healthcare in Shawnee Mission, Kan. New products include Household Spot & Crevice Spray, Carpet & Upholstery Spot Spray and Household Fogger.

Easier-to-follow instructions on packaging continue to be important in helping customers treat their homes correctly, industry participants said.

For example, RX for Fleas Inc., a manufacturer in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is coming out this spring with new packaging for its Fleabusters RX for Fleas Plus Flea Powder. According to Richard Yarmuth, the company’s president, the new package features pictorial instructions to engage shoppers more readily.

"If you can draw a picture for people, they grasp the idea faster,” said Yarmuth. "We’re trying to promote the quality of our product as well as how important compliance to treatment is to the end of ridding a home of infestation.”

And for those customers who have a chronic health problem, a chemical sensitivity or very young puppies and kittens in the house, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based SynergyLabs has expanded its Richard’s Organics brand line to include a natural flea and tick control product for the home.

"Richard’s Organic Premise Treatment is made from boric acid—an environmentally friendly mineral,” said Carlos Zamora, the manufacturer’s marketing coordinator. "A single application protects the entire home against fleas for a full year without using any harmful chemicals. It works by dehydrating, then killing, fleas at the larvae stage. As a result, infestation ends within a week or so.”

Explain the Flea Life Cycle
Retailers should explain that the flea life cycle is a process that takes about three to eight weeks from egg to adult, Dorsch said. Additionally, she said, an infestation can occur several weeks before people even begin to see fleas.

"Most pet owners don’t understand the flea life cycle and often don’t understand why they see fleas again after treating their pet, when in many cases they are not seeing the same flea but a new flea from a persisting infestation,” Dorsch said.

Retailer Flea-Fighting Tips for Customers
Tackling a flea infestation is a lot of work, and pet owners need all the help they can get from their local pet retailer. Ann Burleson, manager at PBS Animal Health store’s Massillon, Ohio, location, said some basic instructions are always gratefully accepted by her customers.
"People should vacuum or steam clean furniture, carpets and floors, plus launder sheets and bedding in very hot water long enough to kill fleas and the eggs,” said Burleson. "Another tip, and a way to save money on expensive vacuum bags, is to cut up a flea collar in pieces and place those in the bag. That will kill any eggs that are dormant inside the bag. Or, if a customer uses a canister-type vac, they can sprinkle some flea powder inside that for extra protection.”
Other instructions Burleson offers her customers: Don’t forget to treat underneath beds and the basement.
"I always tell them, yes, getting rid of a flea infestation is a lot of work, but it has to be done right—otherwise, you’ll have to start all over again.”-CR

She urged more retailers to spread the message to their customers that by keeping up with year-round flea control, infestations can be prevented.

Ann Burleson, the manager of the PBS Animal Health store in Massillon, Ohio, said she stocks a wide variety of flea and tick household control products and does a lot of product research. This is crucial, she said, in order to help her customers choose the most convenient item and the one that’s best suited for their particular pet.

"I sell everything from flea traps and beacons to room foggers, carpet powder treatments and aerosols,” Burleson said. "I have to remind people that a fogger alone won’t get the fleas that are under the bed or in crevices. Right now, I like the Enforcer flea and tick household product line because it features a less toxic, active ingredient named deltamethrin, which is derived from plants.”

At Pet Pantry in Freeport, Maine, sales associate Sara Rand said that a lot of customers who have not had fleas in their homes for more than a decade have been lately coming into the store requesting help for infestations of the pests.

"I’ve been doing lots of education on the entire process: the flea life cycle, the importance of prevention, how to treat various areas of the home. People who have small children crawling around are particularly eager for guidance to deal with the problem.” 

Rand added that her best-selling product lines are Bio Spot and Advantage.

Offer Variety
"A constant message we have to deliver is how to choose the right product that’s compatible for a cat or a dog,” said Heather Blum, co-owner of Petagogy, a store in Pittsburgh. "So we have to stock a variety of products. Sometimes people don’t think it matters, but it’s critical. So flea and tick control continues to be a big process of education. The past two years have been really bad in terms of fleas, so we’ve been educating on how to do all year flea treatments. For some people who have never had to deal with an infestation, we have to instruct them on how to treat the pet, the home and their yard.”

Samantha Doughty, a sales consultant at The Pet Pad in Cary, N.C., said her stock of flea and tick control products has been priced on sale year-round to get people to invest in treating their pet and environment correctly. 

"People want affordability and they want the products to work, of course,” said Doughty. "They want to rid themselves of this problem as quickly as possible. Our most popular type of product for the home is flea dust for carpets and pet bedding, as fleas are always jumping around.”

RX for Fleas’ Yarmuth suggested that retailers harness the power of their e-commerce websites and social media to educate, because the number of people researching and learning online is steadily rising.

"Helping consumers understand where fleas live and how they reproduce is vital,” said Virbac’s Albo.

"Fleas can also stay dormant for a year or more, waiting for the right conditions to emerge. Warm temperatures, high humidity and carbon dioxide emitted by people and pets can trigger the emergence of fleas. Treatment, prevention and ongoing protection are vital.”

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