What a Treat

Pet specialty retailers should use every opportunity to promote sales of cat treats–a profit-generating product category that encourages repeat customer visits.


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Cats have been a major source of fascination for humans throughout history. From 4,000 years ago in ancient Egypt to today in the U.S., cats continue to be popular pets, well suited for many modern-day lifestyles. Pet specialty retailers also recognize that cat owners are a major market for revenue building throughout the year, and one category within the cat department that can be counted on to drive sales everyday–and with every special event or promotion–is the cat treats category. Treats yield high profits with attractive retail prices, making every cat owner a potential customer.

According to the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) National Pet Owner Survey, cat treats are purchased by 68 percent of cat customers in a 12-month period–what’s more, 61 percent of those cat owners are buying one to five packages per month, 19 percent buy six to 10 packages monthly, and 20 percent buy 11 or more. Cat treats are most definitely a popular item and are bought in substantial quantities by a great number of cat owners.


Best Use of Treats
Cat owners give their pets treats for a myriad of reasons. However, when trying to increase sales in this category, it is important to be sure that consumers understand how to use treats appropriately. Cat treats should not be a replacement for proper nutrition, nor should they, in any way, become a major portion of any cat’s diet. Today’s diets provide the necessary and required nutrients for optimum feline health, so treats should be used with discretion. In general, treats should never make up more than 10 percent of a pet’s total diet.

The most common treats in the cat aisle will fall into one of three categories–dry, freeze dried or semi-moist. Freeze-dried treats are extremely popular. They are manufactured from real meat, are low in moisture and cats love them.

Dry treats are crunchy, making them ideal for preventing plaque or tartar buildup and cleaning teeth. They come in various feline-pleasing flavors, such as chicken, turkey, tuna and salmon. Dry treats are also easy to display, peg or toss into a bulk bin. The semi-moist treats are usually made up of 20 to 30 percent water, combined with real meat, such as chicken or tuna. Cat owners can use these highly palatable treats to reward their pets. They are also often the better choice for owners who are looking to camouflage medicine or trying to get an ill cat to eat.

Meanwhile, there are treats specifically formulated for dental health, hairball control, weight control and for senior cats with joint problems. Catnip treats and natural and organic treats should also be part of the inventory selection for your cat customers.

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that cat treats add calories to a diet. So be sure your customers understand this, particularly ones who have cats that are already prone to weight issues.


Enticing Cat Customers

There are many ways to attract new customers to the category and to inspire existing customers to try something new. Giving out free samples and using every opportunity to promote your treat assortment can help generate interest in the category and build sales.

• Special store events are good times to hand out samples–even if it is a dog- or fish-related promotion. Many families have multiple pets in their homes.

• Special sales within the cat department can help promote cat treats; attach a treat to a cat food promotion item. Offer a “free treat with purchase” of other cat aisle products, such as kitty litter, accessories, collars and leads, grooming supplies and toys.

• Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and other holidays throughout the year are good times to have special treat sales and promotions. Capitalize on what the media has already set in place for you.

• Keep track of customers’ names, and pet names and birthdays–celebrate with a free treat.

• Reward customers who make suggestions or comments with treat coupons. Paying attention to customer comments is critical for store operations and improvement. This is a good way to thank your customers for their interest in your success.

• Everyone likes to get something for nothing. Handout some freebies once in a while at checkout to your cat customers, or possibly when discussing cat-related issues in the cat aisle. This becomes personal customer service, which makes a positive impression on everyone. It also adds value, increases goodwill and brings customers back for more.

Of course, retailers are not in business to just give out freebies, but that free item helps get a new product into the hands of a customer who otherwise might not try it. Once that customer is back in the store, the sale is more likely to happen. Just be sure to keep treats well stocked and merchandized, and regularly rotate stock.

Customers will always have favorites, and an ample inventory is crucial, especially when so many customers are buying multiple bags. Offering a great treat selection, outstanding customer service and regular promotions will increase value for your cat customers and result in soaring sales throughout the year.


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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