A Poor Excuse

Many pet specialty retailers report various reasons they don't sell wild birdseed, but the truth is they are missing out on a huge industry. By


Why is it that most pet stores do not sell any wild bird feed or products? Is it a space issue? Is it fear of having to learn about another pet category, even if it is closely linked to pet birds? Do storeowners think that wild bird products would not sell well, since many other stores sell these items? Whatever the excuse, a pet store that doesn’t sell wild bird items, especially feed, is missing out on many easy sales.

In past years, the APPA National Pet Owner Survey showed that more than two-thirds of pet bird owners feed wild birds. There are probably lots of dog and cat owners who feed wild birds as well. In addition, there are also non-pet owners who, because of allergies, feed wild birds because they cannot own pets. Considering all of these groups, the chances are high that enough of a store’s customers feed wild birds to warrant stocking food, and, in some cases, products like feeders.

Another reason that a pet store should stock wild bird feed is for convenience. Most customers come into a pet store to buy food for their pet. If a customer is already in the store and has the mindset of buying food, how difficult could it be to convince them to buy wild bird feed while they are in the store?

The Big-Box Debate

Many stores say that they don’t sell wild bird feed because mass merchandisers have locked up this category. While pet stores can’t compete with big-box stores, the Internet and catalogs when it comes to price, they can certainly compete in terms of quality.

For example, the best technique to sell high-quality dog food is by showing what the value of the food is to customers and their pets. Cheap dog foods are made with low-quality ingredients and fillers, so dogs need to eat more of it to get the nutrition they need to survive. This means that there will be more stool to pick up for the owner and more visits to the vet.

Many of the cheap wild bird seed mixes sold in large chain stores are also made up of fillers, because the seeds that are most favored by birds are expensive. These fillers are thrown out of the feeder and are wasted on the ground or eaten by unwanted guests, such as squirrels. The kicker is that the customers who buy low-quality food end up spending the same amount of money in the long run.

Customers are not going to worry as much about the health and wellbeing of wild birds as they will with their own pets, but everyone wants to save money and do the best for the creatures around them. In the pet industry, there are a few companies that offer wild birdseed and mixes that are filler free, and they also provide information and marketing materials that can be used by employees to become “experts” in feeding wild birds. Educating the employees will allow them to teach customers why the wild bird food sold at the pet store is not only healthier for the birds and will attract more species, but also a better value than the cheaper mixes. It will keep customers coming back to purchase their wild bird food.

Now the only excuse left for not stocking wild bird food may be space, but I know from personal experience that space can always be made for new products a retailer wants to bring into the store. Pet shops are selling themselves short by not taking advantage of the wild bird feeding industry, and the billion pounds of wild birdseed Americans are feeding each year.

Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.

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