Merchandising and Marketing Tips for Pet Retailers

Retailers should take a cue from these successful pet specialty stores when establishing a merchandising plan for their shops.




Strategic Placement

Everyone has different strategies for the layout and design of their store—It’s what makes the shop unique and gives it character. That being said, there are some techniques that are more beneficial when designing pet specialty stores and determining where to stock different products.


Merchandising starts from the outside in. If customers don’t find the outside of your store attractive or welcoming, they’re not going to step inside to see what else you have to offer.


“Having interesting displays in our front picture windows helps draw interest into the store from the foot traffic in our plaza, as well as the cars driving by, so we always try to do interesting eye-catching themes,” says Jessica Mbugua, co-owner at Notorious D.O.G. in Clarence, N.Y.



At Healthy Pet Products in Pittsburgh, they make sure to have an intriguing display at the front of the store which draws customers in.


“[An] easy symmetrical display in a triangle shape pulls your eye into the center,” says owner Toni Shelaske. “The symmetry makes it pleasing to look at, which in turn makes customers want to shop it.”


Once you get customers in the door, it’s important to keep them interested in the product. A smart way to do this is by grouping products by a theme to draw them in.



Laurie Wilson, owner of Teca Tu in Sante Fe, N.M., notes how her store’s “dishes and diners are all in one area so our customers can look at all of them together.” By doing this, customers don’t have to walk around the store hoping to find every option available; instead, they’re all in one place for the customer to easily compare brands and sizes.


Another good strategy when deciding where to stock products is to consider the extra services your store provides and how it opens the way for better merchandising. At Riverfront Pets, in Wilmington, Del., they’ve utilized their grooming salon and DIY self-wash station as a way to sell more grooming supplies.


“People are more likely to pick up specialty shampoos and brushes if they are actually in the process of washing their pup,” says owner Laura Gangloff.


Unique Displays

It’s one thing to have your store thoughtfully designed with displays strategically placed, but if you’re just setting up rows of metal shelving, your store won’t look any different from the one a few blocks over. This is where store owners get the chance to really be creative.


At Riverfront Pets, they use furniture rather than industrial shelving and have a hutch in which they pulled out the cupboards and added closet dowels to hang collars.


The owners found an old infirmary cabinet, which they thought was a great addition to the store. “It’s where we keep our supplements, CBD and pheromone products,” says Gangloff. “We find the display case keeps these smaller, glass items a little safer and provides the suggestion of a clinic, which supports the idea of promoting health.”


They have also enlisted the help of local artists who made a barrel bed to create a unique display for their dog beds. “We like to group items in a way that both highlights the artist and tells a story,” says Gangloff. “So rather than just a selection of beds, we have displayed the barrel with a lounging dog and some of his other ‘furniture’.”


Teca Tu has also utilized a wine barrel, which they got from P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You), to create a unique display. “We put the wine table together to showcase all the wine related doggie, cat and human gifts related to wine!” says Wilson.



Teca Tu also has an armoir to display its signature Vestido coats and vests, which they hand cut out of Pendelton blankets.


Treats Galore

One of the most obvious ways to draw in customers is a prominently placed treats display. If it doesn’t draw in customers, it’s sure to draw in their hungry and curious pups. Better yet, there are tons of ways to make your treats station unique.


“I had the bone table made for me by a local carpenter to display our doggie treats,” says Wilson. The store bakes chili peppers, Santa Fe hats and sugar skulls to embrace the feel of the American southwest.


Teca Tu also boasts prominent baskets of bulk chew treats right next to the registers, creating a great opportunity for impulse buys, especially for customers who bring their dogs along with them. “Dogs can sniff away and sometimes choose their own treats,” adds Wilson.


Riverfront Pets also has treats displayed in a way that draws in customers.


“Our treat bar was the most fun to put together,” says Gangloff. “We collected a huge variety of containers from antique and junk shops and set them up against our rear wall to hold all of the open treats and body parts.”


She notes that some of the treats are located lower to the ground to allow pups to choose their own treats, though some dogs can be sneaky about it. “We do have a minor shoplifting problem as a result, but we get a good idea of what the canine favorites are!”


On Theme

One of the easiest and most obvious ways the display your merchandise is by grouping products by theme, which is why almost every store has adopted this logical strategy. However, there are certainly ways to do this more creatively than others.


The first theme that comes to mind is holidays, but having to change out displays for every holiday, especially toward the end of the year, can become exhausting. Healthy Pet Products has found a way to make holiday grouping a little easier by combining Halloween with fall.


“The Halloween display is set at the front of the store at the end of September, but it can stay there through Thanksgiving,” says Shelaske. “Doing it this way eliminates one floor move. I can go straight from Halloween to Christmas and don’t have to bother with a Thanksgiving-specific display.”



Themes don’t necessarily need to coincide with holidays either, at Notorious D.O.G., they take advantage of any events and seasons.


“We have done a ‘back to school’ theme with different training items,” says Mbugua. “We like to do festive seasonal displays, for example, for fall [we use] outdoor products like jackets, hiking backpacks for dogs, reflective gear, etc.” PB


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