Go Wild

Retailers should keep in mind the animal lovers who are as passionate about the wild birds that visit their backyards as they are about their in-home pets.


One of the best ways a pet store can compete against mass-market and big-box retailers when it comes to selling wild bird products is by being a specialist in the field and having quality inventory. This does not mean that the store employees need to know everything about wild birds, but it does suggest that they should understand and be able to communicate what makes the store’s wild-bird product assortment superior.

Wild bird foods and feeders offered in big-box stores are often not of high quality. For example, many of the seed mixes found in mass market retailers contain a high amount of fillers that can make the food either unpalatable to birds or palatable to unwanted bird species and pests. On the other hand, manufacturers of high-quality products offer seeds and mixes that attract not only a larger quantity of birds but also more species with less mess and waste.

Pet stores need to demonstrate to their customers that, in the long run, higher-quality wild bird food is more valuable than the less-expensive food offered at big-box stores. Even if the high-quality seed mix is twice the cost of a product sold by a competitor, it will likely be a better value, since fillers can make up half of the inexpensive food. Employees should educate customers whenever possible on this fact. However, the value of premium seed mixes must also be marketed in other ways in the store, and this is where signage can be a huge help.

Anyone that works in a pet store—especially one that sells pets—knows that time is extremely limited, and it is not always possible to talk to every customer. However, signs can help educate customers and highlight the benefits and value of the products in stock when there is no employee available on the sales floor.  

The largest sign in the wild bird section should say something like, “Our Wild Bird Food Attracts More Birds With No Fillers or Waste!” Most manufacturers offer lots of great point-of-purchase (POP) and marketing materials that can help drive sales. Running specials and/or having a frequent buyer program can also inspire customer loyalty.  

Time is not the only obstacle to selling wild bird products. Space is often an issue for many pet stores, and having to merchandise another category of products may seem to be almost impossible. But a pet store doesn’t have to carry a lot of products to make this section work. 

A four-foot section can support a well-balanced selection of seeds and mixes, as well as some special but important food items, such as suet. Hanging high-quality and durable bird feeders that cannot be found in big-box stores above the wild bird food section can also drive add-on sales, as feeding wild birds can be a bit addictive. Just like with wild bird food, any feeders offered in a pet store need to work well and last a long time.

Many pet owners feed wild birds—over two out of three pet bird owners do so—and many even consider them “pets” as well. These bird lovers want to feed their wild avian friends the best foods available. A pet store, and especially one that sells caged birds and/or bird products, will lose out on the perfect add-on sale by not selling any wild bird products. There’s also the convenience factor—the customer is already in the pet store and grabs some wild bird food, since it’s easy and saves them another stop.

Of course, some customers only care about price, so convenience won’t matter to them nor will the higher value of the premium-quality wild bird food mix offered in a pet specialty store versus what is offered in mass market or big-box retail. Thankfully, these customers do not necessarily represent the majority of people who come into a pet store. Most of these customers are relational customers, who come in knowing that the staff is helpful and knowledgeable, and they are looking for wild bird products that will reward them by attracting ample numbers of wild, feathered visitors to their feeders.

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


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