Picks of the Litter
Retailers who know the preferences of their customers and the particulars of the products available will be in the best position to choose a well-performing selection of bedding products.
Every small animal owner needs to purchase litter or bedding on a regular basis for their small pet habitat, making this an essential category for brick-and-mortar retailers. Each visit these customers make to the store to stock up on this basic need gives retailers another opportunity to sell them additional products. To succeed in this category, it’s important to carry a good selection of bedding products to ensure shoppers will find a product that meets their needs and keep coming back to resupply.
There is such a wide selection of bedding products available, however, retailers may not be able to stock them all. To decide what products to offer, retailers should consider what their customers are looking for in general. What types of products do customers prefer in other areas of the store? Are green products particularly popular?
Most small animal bedding products are now eco-friendly, but they differ in how they are produced and what materials they are made from. Some shoppers prefer products made from recycled post-consumer waste, while other prefer products made from renewable agricultural sources, rather than recycled materials. Both types of products are good for the environment, just in different ways. Retailers who are knowledgeable about the details of how a product is made will be in the best position to meet the desires of their customers and guide them to the particular kind of eco-friendly product that suits them.
Another topic that is in the forefront of the shopper’s mind these days is where a product is made. There is a distinct preference for products made in the USA compared to those made overseas, especially in China, so retailers should be sure to find out where products are manufactured before putting them on the shelf in their stores. Passing that information along to customers will help them feel confident in their purchases, encouraging them to return to the store for future needs.
In addition to what a product is made from and where it is made, another factor of interest to some consumers is whether or not a product is made by a socially-conscious manufacturer. They may want to know if the company has a good reputation for charitable works. Do they pay their workers well? Do they employ workers with special needs? Letting a customer know that your suppliers meet their definition of good companies will go even farther to cement the relationship between the shopper and the retailer.
Besides where or how a product is made, customers may have other preferences when it comes to beddings and litters, such as appearance and fragrance. One of the reasons paper products have become so popular for small pet beddings and litters is because they are available in a variety of different bright colors. Products made from more natural sources, such as pellets of compressed hay, straw or husks, tend to be limited to brown, gray or dark green colors. I think many people see these darker colors as looking “dirtier” than the bright white of bleached paper.
Certainly a cage full of white paper bedding is a pretty picture of a bright and clean environment. However, it often doesn’t take long before the pristine appearance of the habitat is spoiled. Waste matter quickly stands out in white bedding, while darker, more natural looking bedding will actually do a much better job of hiding the soiled areas. Retailers might consider pointing out this difference to customers who are shopping for bedding products, with the goal of making them as satisfied as possible with their purchases.
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 give out samples, or set out sample bowls—replenished often 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.
Bedding products are bulky and tend to take up a lot of shelf space, but with a strategic approach retailers can build a comprehensive, but efficient, selection. While it’s important to offer a variety of types of beddings, retailers may not need to carry every available package size of each product they carry. Tracking sales will determine how well each item sells and reveal best sellers, which retailers can use to select the optimal mix of products and package sizes to have in the store. 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, 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 three books about rat care, health, and training, and was a consultant on the movie Ratatouille.