Growing Your Gift Selection

With the holiday season around the corner, it’s time to start merchandising your store with products that are perfect for spreading yuletide cheer.


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Gift giving is always in style, but the holiday season is a key time for pet specialty retailers to ramp up their gift-selling game. While there’s the obvious market of pet owners looking to spoil their pets with treats, toys and themed attire, another important segment of potential holiday sales includes the extended family and friends of those pet owners. Retailers can take advantage of both audiences by broadening their selection of gift products, as well as their methods of marketing and selling.

 

“Pets are such an important part of the family,” says Brian Bouldin, CEO of Primetime Petz in Rockwall, Texas. “It makes perfect sense to consider them when giving gifts for any occasion. Giving a gift for a pet shows that you care as much about the pet as you do about the owner.”

 

Primetime Petz offers a selection of pet furniture, such as designer pet gates and beds. The Palm Springs Lounge beds from the company’s new Palm Springs Collection are reminiscent of mid-century modern architecture and make sleek and boutique-like gifts. The beds have multi-story resting spots for cats and small dogs. Their steel sides with glossy white finish support two plush cushions with removable, washable micro-suede covers. The cushions come in Ash and Peacock colors.

 

“A major trend in the pet product industry in general and also affecting the gift segment is the consideration of style,” Bouldin says. “Pet owners are looking for functional pet products that are also stylish and that fit with their home décor.”

 

Natalie Hennessy, senior public relations and marketing manager for San Francisco-based P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You), says pets are becoming more of a permanent part of holiday gift lists and regular shopping plans.

 

“Just as there is joy in seeing your children open their gifts and the excitement on their faces as they play with their new toys—this same feeling is shared with pet lovers,” she says.

 

After the success of P.L.A.Y.’s Garden Fresh and Under the Sea plush toy collections, customers requested some holiday-themed plush toys from the company with the same feel.

 

“We listened and decided to launch our first holiday collection,” Hennessy says.

 

P.L.A.Y. offers the Holiday Classic Toy Collection, which includes Christmas favorites like a gingerbread man, candy canes, hot chocolate, a yule log and a roasted turkey. P.L.A.Y. now also offers its Santa’s Little Squeakers plush line, inspired by classic Christmas ornaments and ugly Christmas sweaters. These plush toys come individually or as a retailer set with a cardboard Christmas tree POP display to hang the ornaments. Rounding out the company’s holiday selection is P.L.A.Y.’s three-piece Hanukkah Toy Set inspired by the holiday’s most iconic symbols: a dreidel, a menorah and a Star of David.

 

“The biggest challenge in creating any holiday collection has been the market,” Hennessy says. “It is saturated with holiday toys, and we want to be unique. To keep in line with our other collections and brand, we continue to focus our designs on aesthetics and adding surprising features that we know pets and parents will love.”

 

Making Gifts a Priority

Now, more than ever, retailers should aim to match this spark of interest in gift-giving with a wide and thoughtful selection of gift products.

 

“People are buying gifts for special occasions, but plenty of people buy gifts for their pet for no reason at all, or when the dog is good,” says Erin Breig, director of Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique in Richmond Hill, N.Y. “It is important to praise and love our pets, and this is just one way of showing that we care.”

 

Rubie’s Pet Shop Boutique, a division of Rubie’s Costume Company, Inc., began launching gift products as a progression from its Halloween items. Now Christmas is one of the company’s most popular times of the year, and its birthday category is the fastest growing.

 

For birthdays, Rubie’s offers birthday hats, vests, dresses and bandanas to dress up dogs on their special day. The company has a corresponding “Barkday Pawty” display that incorporates mix-and-match birthday items and formal wear and is now in the process of developing birthday box sets that include a costume and a toy in a box for fast and easy gift wrapping.

 

“Our accessories and full costumes make great gifts for pets and pet-lovers,” says Breig. “Santa hats and holiday collars, as well as everyday items like cowboy hats and sombreros, have been doing great at pet shops and gift/convenience stores, especially when they are displayed at point of purchase. They are irresistible and funny, and at such a low price point, pet parents and grandparents love them.”

 

 

In the eyes of Ken Berlin, co-founder of Pearhead, a gift product company in Brooklyn, N.Y., carrying gift selections gives retailers the unique and essential opportunity to fully realize the potential of social media marketing via sharing among their customers. Pearhead’s pet line includes frames, keepsakes and holiday products and photo sharing products. The company’s most popular product, which is great for celebrating a pet’s birthday, is its pawprints keepsake.

 

“People continue to post pictures of their pets [on social media] and even create their pets’ own pages,” Berlin says.

 

Gifts are naturally one of the more showy categories as they are meant to bring delight and surprise to a pet owner and/or their pet. Because of the charming and touching nature of gift products, they are inherently picturesque and perfect for social media photos. Show off the assortment of cutesy, whimsical and unique gifts in your store on Instagram or Facebook and use it as an easy access point to bring in new customers. Encourage those who purchase your gift products to share photos of their dog opening the gift—or wearing the gift if appropriate—on social media and ask the customer to tag your store in the posts. Social media is often a place where friends ask each other, “Where did you get that?”

 

“With the explosive growth of marketing potential on social media, we are increasingly seeing this as a great way to promote pet gifts, ensuring they are part of the customer’s experience early on,” says Berlin.

 

The Ultimate Upsell

The group of pet parents who haven’t yet dove into the world of giving gifts to their pets might not be actively seeking out gifts in your store, but thankfully, the gift category lends itself to easy upselling.

 

Edward Luis, creative manager at Jax and Bones in Baldwin, Calif., has a list of upselling tips for retailers looking to be more successful in this area. Jax and Bones carries an array of gifts for both the pet and pet lover including bedding and toys for every holiday occasion.

 

“Keep upsell recommendations limited,” Luis says. “Stick with a few well-targeted recommendations. Try bundling [by] packaging different brands and products together.”

 

While it can be easy to go overboard on buying all the attractive and fun gift products on the market, Luis advises to avoid overdoing it.

 

“Keep the rule of 25 in mind,” he says. “Generally don’t upsell or cross sell items that are more than 25 percent of the original order.”

 

And above all: Know your customers, Luis recommends. If going all out for Christmas or Hanukkah is a big trend in your store’s area—cater to that. If you see an abundance of pets wearing clothes and accessories where you live, stock your gift selection to match and the sales will follow.  PB

 

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