Selling the Essentials

Making sure bird owners have all the necessary products to care for their pets will make for happy, loyal customers.


One of the best ideas I’ve ever heard for getting new bird owners to revisit a store to buy food and accessories is to give them a lifetime guarantee on the pet they just bought. This may seem extreme, but the independent pet store that uses this policy has been doing it for many years, and the employees make it clear that the guarantee is only good as long as the customer buys all of his or her bird food from their store. As we all know, wherever a pet owner buys the food is also the place they’re going to buy treats and other pet items.

Of course, there must be some limits to a lifetime guarantee, but it will actually make the owner better at keeping the pet, and it will prompt employees to promote and be educated on all the products that owners need to keep their birds healthy.

A Healthy Start
Care sheets can be a good way to ensure that new owners have a basic idea of what birds require to stay happy and healthy. Every care sheet should have a detailed list of supplies necessary for a bird-cage setup. The list should include perches of different diameters (including swings and ladders), beak conditioners (and cuttlebones for smaller bird species), extra dishes (as many cages don’t come with dishes that are large enough), litter or liners for the bottom and, maybe most importantly, toys. Toys are a necessity for all caged birds, including finches, canaries and parrots.

Retailers should also encourage new bird owners to buy cage guards or protectors, since not every cage includes one. Cage guards and protectors help keep food in the cage and keep the area around the cage cleaner. Birds can be very messy pets, and owners will appreciate not having to clean around the cage so much.

Retailers should use bird protectors or guards around in-store cages to demonstrate to customers how important and helpful they are. Store cages should also include beak conditioners, various perches and toys. Nothing sells a toy faster than a customer seeing a bird playing with that toy in the store.

Retailers should consider throwing in the bird’s toys for free when they sell a medium- to large-sized parrot to customer. This particularly makes sense for toys made of rope or wood, which are difficult to disinfected to be reused for other birds in the store. Perches that are made of porous material can be sent home as well. Sending home familiar items such as toys and perches will also help make the transition to a new home easier for the bird.

Stores that put together cage setups that include all the items a bird needs will simplify the process for their new bird customers and ensure that they have everything they require before they walk out the store.

Note that even if a bird is sent home with the two to three toys in its store cage, retailers should include additional toys in the setup or sell them separately to the customer. Toys should be changed out when chewed out or every month or two to keep a bird from getting bored with a toy or getting too sensitive to changes. Be sure that a bird has at least three toys made of different materials in its cage at home at all times. Toys that encourage foraging are really great for medium- to large-sized parrots. Old toys that are still in good shape can be recycled back in again after a few months.

Any porous materials used in a birds’ cage that can’t be disinfected in a bleach/water solution (usually five percent bleach) and/or cleaned as needed with soap and rinsed until all cleaners are rinsed off should be thrown out every six months at home. Accessories such as wooden and rope perches and toys made of these materials that are old need to be replaced. This also includes beak conditioners and cuttlebones.

Employees need to tell customers at the time of purchase how to keep the cage clean and what needs to be replaced if they want their pet to stay completely healthy. This way the owner knows they will need to replace certain items over time.

Fostering Loyalty
Pet stores can only survive when customers stay loyal. This can be difficult at times, with so many pet products being offered in mass-market locations and on the Internet. Offering some sort of guarantee under the condition that the customer must get all their pet’s food at your store is a good marketing technique.

Loyalty cards that yield discounts or a gift certificate after a certain amount of purchases are can also help. These cards often work well with dog food, so why not with other pet food, as well? The more customers come in the store for food, the more opportunity there is to have them buy accessories for their pets, which ultimately leads to more sales for your store.

Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.

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