Increasing sales of both live birds and their accompanying products requires close scrutiny of the state of the department, from visual appeal to staff expertise.
When a retailer wants to improve their bird department sales, they must take an objective look at that section in their store and what kind of impression it makes on the customers. Is there a variety of birds and products being offered? Does the stock get updated with new birds and inventory regularly? Is everything clean and displayed well? Are staff members knowledgeable and excited about pet birds? If the answer to any of these questions is a negative, it means the bird department needs to be revamped.
What species of birds to offer depends on a number of factors, such as location, availability and the type of customers who come into the store. Certain species are the bread and butter of bird sales, like the very popular parakeets and cockatiels. These birds can have lots of personality and make great pets for people who want a parrot but don’t have enough time to spend with a larger species. For customers who just want birds to watch and listen to, finches—like the zebras and the incredible singing male canaries—make wonderful choices and are also easy to care for.
Conures, green-cheeks in particular, are another smaller parrot species often offered at pet stores because they make great pets. Like other conures, green-cheeks love to play, but they are not as loud as other conures—although any parrot can and will make noise. Conures are a bit larger than cockatiels, but still small enough that they can be left alone for longer periods of time. This is also true with lovebirds, although their squeaky calls can be quite loud at times.
Larger parrots like the cockatoos, amazons, greys and macaws are extremely intelligent birds with lots of personality and make fantastic pets for people who are home most of the day and want a pet that loves to interact with its owner. Although all parrots can learn to talk, usually the larger the bird, the better they are at speaking. African grey parrots are considered the best talkers, with Amazon species like the yellow-naped Amazon coming in a close second. Although the greys are not noisy normally, the Amazons, macaws and cockatoos can get extremely loud with their calls and yells.
Because large parrots need so much attention, retailers should only offer these birds if they understand them and how demanding they can be for bird owners. They also require a lot of space both in the store and at home to stay mentally and physically happy, so any pet shop that wants to offer larger parrot species needs to have the space and the knowledge to sell these birds properly.
Some stores have their birds in their own room, which helps keep the mess contained and the birds and customers protected, in a sense. However, it can send the message to a potential buyer that the birds are not good to interact with and therefore don’t make great pets. The birds need to be out where people can see them up close. The best displays have the smaller parrot species in bins, and larger ones on stands. Any birds kept out of their cages should have their wings clipped, as it’s too easy for one to escape out the front door. Clipping the wings is also the easiest way to keep the parrots tame.
Offering young, hand-fed parrots and bringing new ones in often is absolutely the best way to sell more birds. If done correctly, these birds will sell themselves. They will be sweet and want to be picked up by customers, which should be encouraged to keep the birds tame and help customers find the pet that is right for them. Although each species has certain common characteristics, such as parakeets’ playfulness and cockatiels’ affectionate tendencies, each individual bird also has its own personality. This is particularly the case with larger species, so it is vital that customers be able to interact with the birds to help find their perfect match.
Birds are extremely messy pets, so the department needs to be cleaned often. Dirty bins, cages and floors will not help sales. Cage skirts and guards can help keep the area around the cages clean, and it’s a great way to sell these products, or cages that include them. However, it’s still necessary to dust, sweep and/or vacuum at least once a day to be sure the focus is on the birds themselves, instead of any stray mess.
Besides being clean, any store bins and cages need to be arranged properly with all the right accessories, both to show off the birds and to demonstrate how these pets need to be set up at home. Include different diameter perches, at least three types of toys, cuttlebones and beak conditioners, plenty of dishes—kept low in the cage but not under perches—and a cage guard to keep more of the mess inside.
Seeing birds playing with toys can sell more of the birds as well as the toys. Regularly change out toys to demonstrate to owners the importance of giving birds new playthings often. When selling large parrots, send them home with the toys they are used to playing with in the store to help the bird adjust to a new environment, as well as new toys to keep them entertained.
Last but certainly not least, have staff who understand birds and their needs. They should love birds as pets and preferably have at least one of their own at home. Teaching someone about birds can be done with training, but if they are not excited about pet birds, that will come through to the potential owner and can cause a loss of a sale. It is absolutely vital to have employees who think that birds are awesome working in the store.
One other factor that can hurt bird sales is if the bird department feels like it’s just an afterthought. If only a couple of birds are offered for sale, young and tame parrots are not brought in regularly, the area looks unclean and the birds are hard to see and interact with, the store is sending the message that parrots do not make great pets. But keep a bunch of young and tame parakeets or cockatiels in a bin and encourage people to play with them, and the message is clear that birds are fantastic and fun pets to own. PB
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 40 years of pet industry and retailing experience.