Fresh Displays

In order for a display to be successful, it must be fresh, eye-catching and appeal to a store’s foundation customers.


Over the past three weeks, I have visited a local aquarium store twice to try and buy two large shubunkin goldfish for my pond. So far, the store hasn’t had any in stock, but I’ve enjoyed looking around at the many other fish on display. Most of the aquariums have the names of the fish written on the front of the tank with crayon. In some of the aquariums, it was easy to see the fish and match them to the names, but it wasn’t so easy for others. In addition, some of the written names looked old, smudged and half worn off. I wondered how many of the fish with the old-looking names were still for sale.

This experience made me realize that in order for a display to be successful, it must be fresh. Customers will respond when something new catches their eye and will be less likely to look at a display they have seen before, or that looks tired or shabby.

Piquant Pictures
Animals on display will obviously be cute, but the customer may not know what it is like to have such an animal as a pet. One idea is to post pictures of an animal interacting with a person, which can help customers visualize having the animal as a pet. Pictures can be obtained inexpensively by cutting them out of trade magazines or printing them off the Internet (with the permission of the owner). Retailers can also encourage customers to bring in or email photos of themselves with their pets. Pictures should be changed frequently to keep the display looking fresh.

Another idea is to use signs that explain the key features of the animals on display. For instance, a sign could say, “Ferrets are the most playful of all the small pets and will play a variety of games with their owner.”

The great thing about signs and pictures is that they can be created inexpensively–with a computer and color printer–and can be changed frequently. Printing them on card stock will help make them look professional. Inks and papers of different colors will keep the display lively, and there is a nearly unending supply of facts for each species. If the signs are different every week, customers will learn something new about a pet every time they visit the store, and will be more likely to find something about a particular animal that piques their interest.

Market-Based Merchandising

Every retailer should know the type of customer that spends the most money at the store. Each store will have a variety of different types of customers, but it is often said that in the retail business, 30 percent of a store’s customers provide 70 percent of the revenue. These are a store’s foundation customers, and retailers should tailor displays for these customers.

Are the store’s foundation customers wealthy and looking for high-end items, or economy-minded and looking for basic values? The answer to this question should dictate not only the selection of products offered, but also the way the products are displayed. High-end items should generally be displayed on more high-end shelving with expensive-looking signage. If a store stocks both types of products, it’s a good idea to display the high-end items in a special boutique section of the store.

Are the foundation customers families with young children, or urban singles who are looking for small pets that will fit into an apartment? Families are probably going to be looking for small rodents and guinea pigs, and will be more interested in colorful habitats and treats. Young adults will likely be interested in rabbits, chinchillas, ferrets, rats and exotics. They will want larger habitats that will fit in better with the décor of their living room and are more likely to want more natural treats.

Are foundation customers mostly owners who consider their small pets to be part of the family, or hobbyists who enjoy collecting and breeding unusual small animals? Owners will want items like hammocks, harnesses and soft-sided carriers, while hobbyists will be interested in habitats, food hoppers, and economy packages of food and bedding.

Debbie Ducommun has a B.A. in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of the book Rats!, the booklet Rat Health Care and, her most recent book, The Complete Guide to Rat Training: Tricks and Games for Rat Fun and Fitness.

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