Bedding products bring small-animal customers to the store on a regular basis, opening the door for additional sales.
One sale pet retailers can always count on from small animal owners is cage bedding or litter. Every small animal owner needs these items and has to re-stock regularly, translating into repeat business for pet specialty retailers. Each visit also gives retailers another opportunity to sell them additional items, so it is important to make their trips worthwhile.
To maximize the sales potential of this category, retailers need to carry a variety of small animal bedding products to ensure that every customer will find a product to meet their needs. Shoppers who don’t like the products a retailer carries will shop elsewhere; so carrying a variety of products can help increase a store’s customer base.
A large variety of bedding products are available on the market, offering different properties and benefits to the customer. The main purpose of cage bedding is to absorb waste and control odor, but it also makes for comfortable sleeping material and an attractive background to show off the animals. Each shopper will place a different value on the various benefits these products offer, so retailers should be prepared to meet as many of these demands as possible.
One growing concern among today’s shoppers is the impact products have on the environment. There is a steadily growing trend toward, and desire for, “green” products. Fortunately, most of the newer litter and bedding products are environmentally friendly. Many are made from recycled materials, or industrial or agricultural by-products that would otherwise need to be burned or deposited in landfills. Because these products are organic, they can be disposed of in environmentally friendly ways too. They can all be composted, and some of them can be flushed down the toilet in small amounts (when connected to a city sewer).
One potential drawback to some of the new products is price. The higher price tag that comes with these products can be somewhat offset by the superior odor-control many of them offer, resulting in less frequent cage changes. Many pet owners will also greatly appreciate spending less time cleaning the cage and having to use less of the product. Once retailers explain the benefits to customers, shoppers tend to be more accepting of the higher price.
Another strategy for countering an objection to price is to suggest that customers use two different types of products together, to take advantage of the best qualities of each. For instance, a layer of pellets can be put down first, with a colored shredded product sprinkled on top for softness and appearance.
Shredded products are popular with many small pet owners who fear that pelleted litters must be uncomfortable for animals to walk on. While some animals do seem reluctant to walk on pellets at first, most quickly adjust and do not exhibit discomfort.
Pelleted products made from materials such as straw or hay tend to be absorbent and inherently excellent at controlling odor. Their biggest weakness is that the pellets crumble apart after absorbing moisture, making them a little messy. However, it is also easy to see which areas are soiled.
One pelleted hay product that works wonderfully as a litter and bedding for rats, mice, gerbils and hamsters is rabbit food. These little green pellets are made up mostly of alfalfa hay, and the chlorophyll in the hay is excellent at controlling odor. I highly recommend that retailers try using this product in their display cages. It is inexpensive, attractive and highly effective at keeping down odors, even mouse odor. Rats, mice, gerbils and hamsters will only eat a small amount of this product, and if they do it won’t hurt them.
Pet owners who have rabbits, guinea pigs, degus or chinchillas can use straw pellets, aspen shavings or a paper product as an alternative, since these animals will eat large amounts of the rabbit pellets.
Customers will have their own preferences when it comes to beddings and litters. The fragrance of a litter or bedding is a major factor in product acceptance, because some people find the smell of certain products unpleasant or overpowering. To acquaint customers with a product, retailers can set out bowls of samples (fresh daily, since fragrance dissipates quickly) to allow them to feel and smell the litter. Another way to give customers a chance to see a product in action is to use it in display cages. Information about a product’s ingredients and qualities will help customers make an educated choice.
Bedding products are bulky and tend to take up a lot of shelf space. While it’s important to offer a wide selection of different types of beddings, retailers may not need to carry every size package of each product carried. Tracking sales will determine how well each item sells and reveal best sellers. This is likely to vary from location to location. Perhaps small packages of colored bedding sell well, but large bags do not. Or maybe another alternative type of bedding tends to sell well only in large bags.
Reducing the number of packages on display will reduce the shelf space needed for the department. In addition, retailers should consider displaying only a single example of each of the larger bags of product, and storing the rest in the back room.
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.