Canine wellness is a concept that retailers can use to provide information and market products that will meet the needs of their customers.
Being in the pet retail business means being in the business of canine wellness. This means that storeowners might be interested in taking a second look at merchandise, store displays, promotional strategies and customer relationship management programs, with the idea of canine wellness in mind. Though it is a broad topic that includes many categories, this column will focus on dietary supplements, grooming products and toys.
One of the fastest growing categories of canine wellness is dietary supplements. These ensure a pet is getting that extra boost of nutrition they might be missing from their daily diet. There are products that boost liver and kidney function, improve immune system performance, aid in skin and coat conditioning and contribute to healthy bones and joints.
Retailers should do as much homework as possible to understand exactly how the nutritional components work and what actual science lies behind the claims on the labels. The reason is simple: customers are getting smarter every day, and no retailer wants to find themselves responding to a customer’s question with nothing but a blank stare. A retailer that carries supplements in the store is almost automatically thought of as more of a pharmacist than a retailer. Customers need to trust that the retailer has knowledge of the product than runs deeper than the label, which they can read for themselves.
Talk to manufacturers to get an understanding of the corporate entity behind the products on the shelves. Be discriminating about which products to stock, and don’t be shy about communicating that discriminating sensibility to customers–it will boost their confidence in the store and assure them that they’re making wise choices about the powders, pills or tabs they’re giving their dogs.
The same is true for over-the-counter (OTC) medications. With this particular category, smart retailers should develop and cultivate close working relationships with veterinarians who can help guide, support and endorse the quality and proper applications of OTC medications. Being able to attribute a vet’s recommendation adds an important level of authoritative credibility that a storeowner wouldn’t necessarily have on his or her own.
Good grooming extends beyond just smelling nice. Regular grooming keeps little problems, such as insect bites, scratches and hot spots, from getting worse to the point that the dog’s health is compromised.
Along with shampoos and conditioners, the store’s grooming section can offer balms for paw pads, lotions that promote healing of skin and sunscreen to prevent sunburns. Ear cleaning solutions and dental products can also effectively sell from the grooming section.
If a store carries systemic flea and tick prevention products in the OTC medication section, consider providing all-natural flea and tick products as well. Herbal solutions containing neem or citronella oils that can be sprayed on or prepared as a bath or dip provide a natural extension of other cleaning and grooming products.
By the same display rationale, cleaning products for the home can also be grouped with grooming products. Here you can offer sweeps and brooms, bags and pads, diapers and e-collars. The message is simple: clean is healthy.
When customers look at dog toys, invariably joy spreads from ear to ear. Toys are fun, but with some simple, nicely executed signage or artwork, a storeowner can introduce an additional message–happy is healthy.
In terms of the customer’s purchase decision, a toy then represents an important investment in the wellbeing of the dog. This is likely to become an increasingly important distinction to make while the economy struggles to recover, because customers increasingly devote more thought to their decisions and need to be convinced of the value of their purchase.
Try this strategy in the toy section and then take a look at other products to see if the idea can be replicated in other categories.
At the end of the day, canine wellness is not a product; it’s a concept, a philosophy and a commitment. It’s an idea that can remain fixed while product trends roll in and out like the tides. Wellness, as a way of life, can provide a beacon to guide business owners working hard to understand and meet the needs of their customers.
Dan Headrick is a freelance writer who, with his wife Pam Guthrie, owns Wag Pet Boutique in Raleigh, N.C. The couple, former corporate burnouts who just got fed up with having to leave their dogs home alone all day, opened Wag in 2003. The store has received numerous community and industry awards.