More time inside, along with the need to stay warm and to keep mentally and physically stimulated can mean a winter boost for pet retail sales.
As the brilliance of fall subsides into the gray chill of winter, customers move into their own cycles of cold weather life with their pets. More time indoors, along with the constant need to stay warm and to keep mentally and physically stimulated take on new meaning with the onset of winter. Be there for customers during this time of year with a creative range of products designed to support the all-natural lifestyle.
When stocking winter products, start with the basics. Jackets and sweaters made from recycled synthetic materials or natural fibers make wonderful displays. With this product category, customers can also fulfill their sense of style and fashion.
It’s also important not to ignore the role of the “shop local” movement in the community; a trend deeply connected to the ideals of sustainability that all-natural products also promote. Explore opportunities to sell on consignment locally made products such as sweaters, jackets, beds and blankets. These products can be successfully merchandised in stores for their one-of-kind value, they support local entrepreneurs and they satisfy a growing desire among consumers to contribute to the local economy of small business.
This winter season product category can also include booties to keep paws warm and protected from ice and salt. Footwear for dogs comes in a wide range of design options, from heavy fleece and leather, to inexpensive, reusable latex.
Beds and cozy kitty nests typically sell well in the winter. Many beds are made from recycled materials, and while there are electrically heated pads for pets, materials that trap natural body heat and radiate it back to the animal also are available. Travel beds should also be added to the mix, along with durable, washable crate pads.
The winter sun sets early, so exercise often takes place in the dark. Reflective collars, leads and vests help keep pets and owners safe. Try as we might, however, exercise tends to fall off in winter, so indoor play becomes more important. Well-designed toys that challenge the intellect and stimulate physical movement help to fill that gap in exercise time. Look for toys made from natural or recycled materials to re-enforce the store’s commitment to a sustainable economy. Also important, look for products that create a bit of the outdoors for pets: cat grass for those windowsills or indoor “yards” that pets use to do their business.
Stuck inside for long periods with doors and windows tightly sealed means maintaining cleanliness can become difficult. Look for ways to highlight non-toxic, biodegradable cleaning supplies, along with grooming supplies.
For storeowners who sell food, treats, chews and dietary supplements, it might not be a bad idea to consult with vets in the community to ask them about the range of cold weather-related health issues they most commonly see. It might be as simple as weight gain, or it could be dietary issues stemming from holiday feasts that many pets get to sample. Many vets might not be prepared to recommend specific products, but they can help a retailer understand the range of issues the store’s products might be positioned to address.
Armed with knowledge from the authoritative voice of local veterinarians, a store is better equipped to promote lines of all-natural dietary products, such as digestive enzymes and vitamin supplements. Don’t forget dental care items, eye and ear care products, balms to sooth dry paw pads and shampoos, as well as dietary supplements like salmon or cod liver oil to promote healthy skin and coats.
Be prepared to recommend low-fat lines of all-natural foods during the winter season of low activity. This helps keep pets healthy while helping cultivate customers across broader lines of the food category. And to help pets stay satisfied and occupied during long, quiet days indoors, nothing beats an all-natural, fully digestible chew such as a bone, tendon or bully stick.
Customers can stay green even when the world turns cold and gray. Serve them and help the store’s profitability by providing lots of product options that speak to the subtle changes we all experience through life’s seasonal patterns. Encourage customers to consider not simply a product purchase, but decisions that support lifestyle commitments to simplicity, sustainability and good health.
Dan Headrick and wife Pam Guthrie own Wag Pet Boutique in Raleigh, N.C.