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11:56 AM   April 25, 2015
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Sharing Holistic Knowledge

Retail staffs go an extra step by having options for health-conscious customers.
By Michelle Jensen

Courtesy of Carol Boker/PPNI
Learning isn’t always easy. And it’s not always fun. But learning about holistic pet care and passing the information to retail staff is essential for keeping health-conscious customers happy.

Collect the Data
Retailers can pass along information to their staffs about holistic options by gathering knowledge.

“I read tons, and my husband and I try to make ourselves knowledgeable about the products we carry,” says Sandie Wheeler, owner of Pets Gone Healthy in Marlborough, Mass. “I attend veterinary conferences to learn about holistic options and I have a certification in small-animal care.

“Any product we bring into the store we learn about and read about,” Wheeler says. “I don’t like to sell something I’m not educated about.”

Asking questions is another important aspect of building staff knowledge base.

“We ask the distributors or manufacturers for information or call them directly when we have questions,” Wheeler says. “That kind of thing is very helpful for staying educated.”

Wheeler says it’s important to her not to answer questions just for the sake of answering. Chances are, questions asked once will come up again.

“We learn from our customers,” Wheeler says. “Sometimes customers come in with a specific question we don’t know the answer to, so we find out.”

She says distributors sometimes bring in representatives who can be a helpful source of information.

Do the Research
Others agree that research is one of the best ways of gathering information on holistic options to pass on to retail staff.

“I do a lot of research on products,” says Joanna Livieratos, owner of The Greater Green in Grand Junction, Miss. “We try to do research on different herbs and their effects.”

Some customers who want to convert to a more holistic lifestyle for themselves and their pets just don’t have enough time to do all the research. That’s where retailers and their staffs come in.

Livieratos says she does a lot of research so she can share the information with customers who have questions.

“I realized a lot of people don’t have time to do all the research,” Livieratos says, adding that she shares knowledge with friends and family because she’s passionate about it.

Communicate the Information

5 Holistic Training Highlights

  • Gather product information.
  • Ask manufacturers and customers appropriate questions.
  • Read manufacturer brochures.
  • Encourage label reading.
  • Communicate knowledge to staff.
It’s important for the retail staff to communicate to customers just what holistic care means.

“Physical, emotional and even spiritual levels of well-being and happiness are all aspects of holistic care for pets,” says Alan Kerzner, president of Halo, Purely for Pets in Tampa, Fla.

“From a retailer’s perspective, education is key,” Kerzner says. “Shoppers need to be made aware that physical aspects of health and emotional levels of happiness are all aspects of a pet’s well-being. It’s more than just nutrition.”

Some manufacturers are great at helping to convey the benefits of holistic and natural pet care. Kerzner says companies do this through various ways, including packaging, brochures and websites.

Different manufacturers communicate the benefits of holistic pet care to differing levels depending on their goals, philosophy and commitment to it, Kerzner says.

“[Halo’s] belief is in total care—inside and outside of the animal,” he says.

Nature’s Variety in Lincoln, Neb., shares its holistic diet values by using brochures, branding, a council and a newsletter.
Betsi Schumacher, account supervisor for Nature’s Variety, says the company believes in communicating its values to the retailer. The retailer, can, in turn, educate staff about the company’s commitment to holistic pet care.

Watch the Trends
Information about holistic pet care is needed today as much as ever.

Livieratos recommends letting customers know they can call up manufacturers about questions they have on labels and ingredients.

“You’ve got to do label reading,” Livieratos says. “There are so many natural claims, so to be a natural consumer, you have to educate yourself.”

Kerzner also highlights the importance of label reading.

“If a consumer picks up a label, they can decide if it’s something they’d use on themselves,” Kerzner says. “If there’s a bunch of things in there they’ve never heard of, then they are not going to trust that it’s good for their animal.

“The need to educate about healthy food and an integrated approach to pet care has always been needed,” he says. “But, it’s only been about five to seven years ago that consumers have become more interested in transferring a more healthy, holistic lifestyle to their pets.”

Wheeler says customers are becoming savvy about products and knowledgeable about what they are giving their pets.

Not every customer is going to have the same level of desire for holistic products, Kerzner says. But at least retailers can prepare their staffs for those customers who are seeking out holistic options. <HOME>

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