Feast Your Eyes

Retailers can boost sales of small animal treats by taking an organized, visually appealing approach to merchandising.




With the help of some smart merchandising, the wide variety of treat options on the market creates a promising sales opportunity for retailers. There are probably more choices available in the treat department than in any other category of small pet products, with a large assortment of shapes, flavors and colors. While it’s always good to offer an assortment to customers, too much variety can backfire. A surplus of options can cause confusion and indecisiveness, perhaps leading the customer to abandon the choice altogether. The solution is to develop a plan for creating an organized display of small animal treats. Retailers can choose from one of several merchandising strategies, but the main idea is to arrange the treat section in a way that helps customers make their choice more easily.


A common way to display treats is to arrange them by ingredient or type of treat, placing all the seed treats together, yogurt treats together, baked treats together, etc. This method offers customers a neat set of categories to choose from, allowing them to narrow down the choice quickly and easily. It makes it easy for customers to find the particular type of treat they may be looking for and compare product options within that category.


If a retailer wants to prioritize the visual appearance of the display, they could organize the products by manufacturer. Because the headers on the packages from each manufacturer are usually similar, this can create a cohesive display, with each section forming a color block. Again, this offers customers an orderly setup where they can easily find the brand of treats they’re looking for.


Another option to consider would be to set up two sections of treats: one for natural products and one for treats that are more whimsical and colorful. Each of these types of treats will appeal to a different sort of customer. Children will be more attracted to brightly colored treats in different shapes. Health-conscious customers will be more likely to buy less processed treats. By displaying the different kinds of treats in separate areas, customers will be able to more easily focus on the type of treats that most appeal to them and won’t be distracted by treats that don’t suit their preferences.


Many retailers divide the treat displays by dietary classification, with a section for carnivores (ferrets), a section for herbivores (rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas, degus and prairie dogs) and a section for omnivores (small rodents). This plan tends to work well because the best treat for each animal is based on their natural diet. Treats for ferrets should be mostly meat. Treats for herbivores should be high in fiber and low in fat and sugar. Omnivores can eat just about anything and can have treats with a slightly higher fat and sugar content than the other groups. These main groups can then be subdivided into other sections.


Grab and Go

Another way to increase the sales of small animal treats is to encourage impulse purchases by displaying treats near the cash register. Treats that sell for less than five dollars are perfect impulse items because customers can justify a little splurge, even if they didn’t plan to buy a treat when they walked in the store. Staff members can also be instructed to ask customers buying small animal products if they would also like to get their pet a treat. Retailers could also consider putting out small signs that say, “Your pet deserves a treat today”—who can argue with that?


Treats displayed by the checkout counter should look particularly appetizing or attractive to catch buyers’ attention. Keep the choice simple by only using two to four different treats, but give customers the choice between a natural-type treat and a more colorful option. Consider changing the treats on display frequently to bring your regular customers’ attention to new items.


Mark the Occasion

Surveys show that small-animal owners buy more treats for their pets during holidays and for special occasions. One idea is to encourage customers to sign their pet up for a birthday club. As the birthday of each pet approaches, retailers can send the customers a special offer, such as a coupon for a free treat. Chances are, when the owner comes to the store to pick up the free treat for their pet, they will buy some additional products as well.


Retailers should consider increasing their selection of treats in the weeks before major holidays. Of course, Christmas is one of the biggest retail seasons, but also consider promoting small animal treats for other holidays that focus on special treats: Valentine’s Day, Easter and Halloween. Choosing treats that match the color of the holiday can attract additional attention. For instance, consider creating an endcap display with orange carrot-type treats for Halloween and pastel-colored yogurt treats for Easter. For Valentine’s Day, feature heart-shaped treats.


Don’t forget to highlight any holiday treat promotion with a sign. For example: “Give your ferret your heart this Valentine’s Day,” “Treat your bunny this Easter,” or “Tricks for treats this Halloween.” PB


Debbie Ducommun has a B.A. in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of three books about rat care, health and training, and was a consultant on the movie Ratatouille.


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