Dealing with odors, stains and waste removal is a reality of pet ownership, and pet owners are always going to be in need of products that address these concerns. For consumers shopping for these items, safety and efficacy are at the top of their list of priorities.
This is a category where "tried-and-true" really counts, and it can be hard to get feedback when there are so many different products to try. For many pet specialty retailers, finding a few products that work well might be better than carrying a huge variety.
In fact, Chris Achord, owner of The Cat Shoppe & Dog Store in Nashville, Tenn., said she has narrowed it down to just one product, Eco-88, because it does both stain and odor removal and works well for both. Over the years, she has used it in her own home with great success, giving her confidence to recommend it to customers.
"When you find something that works—stick with it," she said. "Customers appreciate that this product is an all-in-one product for stains and odors."
Achord noted that her customers also appreciate that the product she recommends is all natural. It does not have any fragrance or perfume to temporarily disguise the odor—it eliminates it, the company reports. Finding products with safe and natural ingredients is important to customers, Achord added.
Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has two locations in Bend, Ore., said that she also believes in trying products before recommending them to customers. Though Bend Pet Express carries more than one product for stain and odor control, she has narrowed down the selection considerably.
"The bonus of allowing dogs into our stores means personally testing out the products we carry in the store," McCohan said. "We have eliminated quite a bit of products this way and narrowed it down to ones that really work."
Cleaning products have improved over the years, said Pete Stirling, president and COO for Skout’s Honor, an Irvine, Calif.-based manufacturer of eco-friendly cleaning solutions.
"Surfactant technology, specifically, has really come a long way over the last five years and continues to lead the way for the next generation of green cleaning products," Stirling said. "The customer is definitely looking for a more environmentally responsible product and using their purchase to support companies that uphold similar values."
Tara Garland, marketing director for Montreal-based Earth Rated, agreed that safety is paramount to consumers as their pets might be exposed to the product.
"Pet parents are conscious of ingredients, and stain, odor and waste removal products are no exception to this," she said. "When you are treating a carpet, couch or even a bed, chances are it’s a place your dog or cat has regular contact with. So, ensuring that a formula is nontoxic and safe for pets is important."
Displays that Sell
How and where retailers choose to display stain, odor and waste control products is important. Showing how the products work is key, too. This can be achieved with some in-store demonstrations.
"We find that when a retailer lights a candle in the store, that significantly increases interest in the products and, of course, helps drive sales," said David Neuwirth, founder of Hollywood, Fla.-based One Fur All, which makes a line of candles designed to freshen up households with pets. "So, when a retailer orders at least two cases of candles, we include an extra candle at no charge for in-store use."
Melissa Gulbranson, vice president of marketing for Oxyfresh in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, suggested that retailers put themselves in pet owners’ shoes when thinking about displays.
"What are their everyday concerns?" she said. "How do you address them in a new and interesting way? Paint them a picture of using this product in their home. This is a time of year when we see muddy paws and where we’re getting even more pet odors and stains. A fun way to draw consumers to the solution could be as simple as having muddy paw vinyl stickers on the floor from the front door to a display or shelves. It grabs attention in a fun yet inexpensive way."
Where retailers display products is important as well, said Cierra Voelkl, social media manager for Metro Paws in Los Angeles.
"Associating products with their use can be an effective solution," she said. "For example, our Poopcase [waste bag dispenser] can be a focal point in a seasonal display with a fun leash and collar set to make a big impact. Or, putting our Metro Pads [training pads] on an endcap with puppy essentials such as an all-natural cleaner makes them a great talking point for the average customer."
Metro Paws recently launched Seafoam Poopy Packs, a colorful twist on its classic bag. Poopy Packs are degradable and more durable than the average bag, Voelkl said. Like all the company’s Poopy Packs, the seafoam green bags stand out on shelves with their bright colors, she noted.
Talk, Talk, Talk
When it comes to educating customers on their choices for stain and odor control and waste removal products, having conversations is key.
Kim McCohan, chief happiness officer for Bend Pet Express, which has two locations in Bend, Ore., said that helping customers understand treating a carpet versus hardwood versus an outdoor exercise pen could incite very different conversations. That’s why staff members emphasize the details.
"We talk a ton with customers," McCohan said. "We want to know, ‘What’s the situation?’ And we want details about what’s going on. I also feel that cat owners forget that vomit can be cleaned up with the same products for urine. That often leads into nutrition conversations and finding alternative food solutions—so these cleanup conversations open the door to some very important discussions."
Shane Rippey, general manager for Fin & Feather Pet Center in Richmond, Va., agreed that talking to customers about their needs is important.
"We get a lot of questions from pet parents about what we recommend in this category," Rippey said. "It’s important for retailers to have already decided upon which products they are going to recommend and why."
Conversations can also help educate pet owners on mistakes they might be making at home. For example, it is quite common for pet owners to use household cleaning products and get frustrated by a lack of success.
"Household cleaners aren’t targeted for pet stains and, as a result, don’t fully remove the mess," said Tara Garland, marketing director for Montreal-based Earth Rated. "This can result in repeat marking and lingering smells. Explain the different uses for different products."
Conversations outside of the store can be important, too.
"Social media plays a huge role in letting the public know about new and existing products," said Cierra Voelkl, social media manager for Metro Paws in Los Angeles. "By putting a focus on spotlighting a few favorite products, retailers can encourage new and potential customers to come in and shop."