House Training Essentials
Giving good advice, helping solve problems and creatively merchandising house training products can result in strong sales and lifelong customers.
Just as it is with every retail category, house training products are best promoted by identifying the target market. The answer, quite obviously, is people with puppies or new pets who will require guidance in all aspects of pet ownership—even where to shop.
Contacting local breeders, shelters and veterinarians for referrals is a logical first step and a veritable gold mine in finding people with new pets. Take advantage of networking. Breeders and shelters give a “puppy kit” to new owners that contains food and other items, and providing your card, an inexpensive item and a coupon is a great way to establish yourself as a reliable resource.
Once a puppy or adoptive owner is in the door, the conversation should include house breaking tips and techniques. Crate manufacturers may have handouts or videos with step by step instructions for utilizing crates in house training, but creating your own will add value to your store’s brand and enhance customer loyalty.
Any puppy section should include several options pertaining to teaching pups where to eliminate (along with suitable toys, leashes and soft collars). The possibilities range from puppy pads, crates and products for clean up after accidents to items that automatically dispense a treat when a pee pad is used or various ways for the dog to alert the owner that they need to go out.
Make sure all staff members know the selling points of each product sold. More than one puppy pad may be offered, but each has a unique edge that will appeal to different customers. One may hold more liquid, another may have adhesive to keep it in place and the other may have the lowest price to cater to the economy-minded. Cleaners may be biodegradable, natural or have an added odor eliminator.
In addition to feedback from customers, knowing the most important selling points is the best way to ensure customers make the right purchase. Something that seems as simple as a poop bag can be an important choice, with products varying in size and sturdiness.
Puppy customers often have emotional reservations about crate training, so make sure your staff can explain the benefits. Not only is it easier for a dog to understand where not to void when he’s confined to a dog bed-sized area, he’s also not getting into any other trouble while he’s in a crate or exercise pen. And the future benefits are huge. When the pet needs to be confined, whether at a grooming salon or the veterinary clinic, it won’t be a source of stress; it may actually provide reassurance.
In addition to, “Oh, no, I wouldn’t want to put them in jail!”, some pet owners simply object to having a large plastic or metal grid crate in their living area. Manufacturers have addressed this by creating “doggie dens” that resemble human furniture, thus encouraging owners to keep their pets within sight and sound of their pack while still preventing unwanted behaviors that might occur if the animal was loose.
The Importance of Placement
Dogs of all ages—from puppies to seniors—will likely experience some sort of stress and/or anxiety that leads to the need for teaching or re-teaching house-training. These can be due to changes in routine, living in a new place or even an addition to the family.
To counteract this, retailers can cross-merchandise by placing calming treats, supplements and dog diapers together to help prevent messy cleanup or damage to the home.
For cats and kittens, retailers can display litter boxes near the spot cleaning products and pee pads. Placing a pee pad under the litter box helps keep everything neater and makes for easier cleanup while cleaning products keep odor under control.
Keep in mind that every single pet owner is a prospective customer for poop bags, and there’s several options for marketing them.
If the store has a sanitation station, Chris Crosson, president of Doggie Walk Bags, recommends putting clip strips of poop bags near the station. If customers use them—or even just see them—it’s motivation to purchase.
“A great add-on item for a customer purchasing a 25 pound bag of dog food would be some dog waste pick up bags,” adds Crosson. “You know they are going to need them. By giving the customer a sample bag, it could remind them they need to purchase more bags.”
If a pooper scooper is used in a walk area, make sure it’s one the store carries. No walk area? Donate a professional dispenser to a nearby park with a “donated by” sign that includes the store’s name. This will generate sales and create a good feeling toward the store.
When it comes to displays, Sue Kemp, manager of Worldly Pets in Marblehead, Mass., suggests including all the elements needed for house training.
“Not only a display of potty pads with an enzyme cleaner for the inevitable error, but a crate, a scent aid to lead a pup to the right area to use indoors or out, a collar and lead, training treats and a clock to indicate that a regimented schedule is important for success,” says Kemp.
Autumn Ellis, marketing and communications coordinator for Pet Parents, adds that thinking about how the customer will use a product can help you decide how and where to place it.
“Washable diapers and belly bands are best placed beside pet beds, because they are usually worn at night for long periods of time,” she says. “Washable pee pads are best placed beside cages, crates and food, and water bowls because pee pads are used as crate linings and protect the floor from possible water and food mess during pet mealtimes.”
Kemp recommends placing little post-it notes with tips and reminders scattered throughout the store in strategic locations. These can include, “Keep to a schedule!” on the clock, “Positive reinforcement is crucial!” on the treats, one with a link to a helpful house training article or perhaps one near the spray cleaners explaining the importance of clean up to prevent the animal from following its nose to the “right” elimination spot—in the pet’s opinion.
Because these customers have the potential to frequent your store for a long time to come, the way you choose to merchandise, promote and problem solve issues related to house training can have a huge impact on future sales. Be creative and helpful and you’ll stay their go-to spot for all their pet’s needs, now and in the future. PB