Toy Story

Retailers can boost sales and help out their customers by offering a wide range of cat toys and touting the many benefits of toy play for the family feline.


Cat toys aren’t just big fun; they’re big business for pet specialty retailers. Variety and choice is no problem. Mark-up and profit is not an issue. Cat toys are great sellers, and by providing a large selection for customers, retailers can create a solid customer base and guarantee repeat business.

Toys can fulfill many needs for the cat owner, while at the same time providing numerous benefits to the cat. Employees should know these benefits and be able to communicate them to customers.

Retailers also need to offer a good toy selection in the cat aisle to ensure owners have a variety of toys at their disposal. By utilizing a variety of toys, many things can be happening simultaneously for the domestic cat during playtime.

There are several really good reasons why the domestic cat needs toys and planned play periods should be part of their daily routine. So what are these often-subtle advantages, and how do customers get the most out of the toys available to them?

• Physical exercise is probably the most obvious reason. It relieves stress; it’s an important variable in weight control; and it’s imperative for good health.  Exercise also contributes to healthy bones and organs, improves circulation and promotes flexibility, which is especially important for older cats.

• Emotional health is one of the more subtle advantages. Without toys, a cat’s natural tendencies to hunt, pounce, climb and hide are not stimulated and are suppressed. Toys help prevent boredom and depression. They help cats do what they do best.

• Behavioral problems can be averted. These problems are usually due to frustration and natural predator instincts. Providing toys that simulate the activities associated with hunting can deter pouncing, jumping, hiding and even biting behaviors. Toys and play periods are the closest thing an indoor cat may have to allow for the natural instinct of hunting prey.

• Toys can also help shy and fearful cats. These cats will often hide. Toys and play periods can help reduce anxiety in cats by encouraging play and social interaction in the household.

• The interaction created with toys during play periods creates and strengthens the bond between owner and cat.  Strong bonds reduce shyness, stress and improve on physical and emotional health. 

Daily play with the family feline should be part of every cat owner’s routine. To get the most out of playtime, owners should offer a variety of toys that stimulate cats in different ways. Owners should also provide hiding places for their cats, so that the pets replicate the hiding action during stalking or hunting prey. It’s a good idea for owners to buy both toys the cat uses on its own and ones that require owner/cat interaction.

Not all cats are going to prefer the same types of toys. Regardless, encourage cat owners to incorporate slow movements, fast movements, erratic movement patterns and a variety of toys in the play period. Shy cats can be encouraged with the use of treats to generate an interest in the toys. Toys can also be rotated–putting some away and setting out a new batch helps to keep playtime fresh and fun.

Inventory Management
The cat toy aisle should be strewn with variety. Be sure to include items that can provide hiding places, such as sacks and cat furniture. The toy assortment can include scratching posts, balls, catnip and catnip toys, feathers, feather wands, fur mice, rolling toys, laser toys, wind-up and moving toys, and human/cat interactive toys, to name a few. There is no shortage of variety in the category, and retailers should take full of advantage of that. New items on the shelf will generate new interest for customers and new sales for retailers. Merely rearranging or rotating product on the shelf will get customers’ attention. Just changing up displays can draw attention to toys that may have been overlooked for weeks.

Employees should also always strive to encourage toy sales with the sale of feline diets, treats, crates, kitty litter and other popular staples. Retailers can create add-on sale specials and offer coupons or  buy-one-get-one-free sales. Toy profit margins allow for creativity in merchandising and marketing for increasing higher volume sales. Stores should make use of endcaps, bins, cash register counter space and bulk displays.

Many cat owners tend to underestimate the importance and value of toys to the overall long-term health of their family feline. Pet supply retailers should take this fun product category and look at it as an additional opportunity to ensure pet ownership success.  Retailers can increase cat customers’ knowledge about feline health and the importance of a keeping a good supply of toys at home.

John Tyson is a freelance writer and photographer who resides in Houston, Texas. He has 20 years combined experience in the pet industry as a multi-store owner, general manager and industry journalist.

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