Dynamic Displays

Sales of all small pet products are dependent on sales of the animals themselves, so retailers need to make animal displays as attractive and enticing as possible.




Have you ever walked into a pet store with the sole purpose of looking at the adorable small animals on display? Many people, especially children, are just naturally drawn to see what animals are available, even if they aren’t currently planning to get one. However, you can encourage these customers to consider getting a new pet with an alluring display.


When setting up habitats for your small animals, it’s important to be aware of possible hindrances. For example, animal habitats should be equipped with hiding places to give the animals security—but cardboard tubes and wooden houses can block the view of the animals. Instead, use transparent tubes or glass jars. Since most small pets rely on their sense of touch more than their vision, as long as they are inside a container, they don’t care if they can see out and others can see in. In addition, these items are easily cleaned.


While all small animals can be enticing, exotic animals can help attract even more customers to a store if they are legal in your area. If not, there are two other small domestic pets that are often considered exotic to customers: chinchillas and hairless animals. Since chinchillas are less well-known and more expensive than most other small pets, they carry the cachet of an exotic animal. Hairless rats and guinea pigs may look strange, but when you go more than skin deep they are the same as their furry counterparts and only need a little more care. Hairless hamsters and mice are other animals to consider when playing up the exotic.


The small pets you have on display should be well socialized—meaning extensively handled by humans as babies so they are accustomed to people. Having animals that have developed bonds with humans and enjoying interacting with them is key to being able to sell them to customers. Animals that haven’t been well socialized won’t want to be held by customers and are not likely to make good pets. Guinea pigs, for example, are born ready to run, so they need to be socialized the day they are born.


Animal displays that allow customers to reach in and pet or pick up small animals are very popular with the public and can increase foot traffic into a shop. In order to make these displays successful, and safe for the animals, they should be located where staff can keep a close eye on them. The animals in the displays should be especially well-socialized, and the extra handling from customers will extend this even more.  One problem that can arise with interactive displays is customers will sometimes put animals back into the wrong habitat. For this reason, it is recommended that only one gender of each species be in the interactive display at any one time. This will prevent a female from being accidentally placed in a cage of males, or even worse, a male put in with the females. Small rodents and guinea pigs reach sexual maturity at a very young age, so males and females should be housed separately to prevent pregnancies.


Picture This

Often, when customers observe a display of small animals, some or all of the animals may be sleeping. Even if some are active, the customer may not know what it is like to have that specific animal as a pet. Posting pictures of the animal interacting with a person will show the enjoyment and perks of owning one. This can let the customers see that the animal likes to be petted and will allow them to visualize having the animal as a pet. Retailers can also post stories about small pets that further explain the benefits of owning a particular animal. While pictures and stories can be found in magazines or on the internet, retailers should ask past customers to bring in or email their own stories and photos with their pets from your store—real life testimonials are more likely to encourage future sales and can increase loyalty in current customers.


Another idea is to use signs that explain the key features of, or fun facts about, the animals on display. For instance, a sign could say, “Ferrets are the most playful small pets and will play a variety of games with their owner,” or “Rats can learn a variety of different tricks.”  These fun tidbits will intrigue customers about the potential of having the animals as pets.


Signs can be created inexpensively and changed frequently to keep the display looking fresh. Printing them on card stock can help them look more professional. Bright colors will help keep the display lively and there are plenty of facts to highlight. If the signs are different every week, customers will learn something new about an animal every time they visit the store and will be more likely to find something about a particular pet that piques their interest. Customers might start coming to the store every week to see the new pictures and stories—and potentially buy new products or pets. 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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