Healthcare at Home
With the right approach to education and merchandising, the first-aid and wound care category offers both an opportunity to build customer relationships and strong sales potential.
No pet parent wants to dwell on the possibility of health problems for their beloved furry friends. But by offering products that prepare pet owners to take quick action in the event of an accident, as well as solutions for long-term health issues, retailers can help their customers become more confident and capable caretakers.
Manufacturers attest to the fact that the first-aid and wound care category is growing significantly, due to increased retailer and consumer awareness, as well as expanding product options.
“We’ve seen category growth year-over-year since we started in this market,” says Geoff Hamby, director of marketing for Vetericyn. “We believe it’s partly due to the increased awareness and education among pet owners about at-home pet care. The other factor that has grown the category is the ability for the market to offer safe and non-toxic pet products, like Vetericyn, that are easy to use and apply at home.”
Of course, humanization of pets is also helping drive growth in the first-aid and wound care category.
“Now that pets are considered much-loved family members, the need for our pets to heal more comfortably, safely and quickly are priorities consumers focus on,” says Linda Markfield, president of All Four Paws. The company offers the Comfy Cone and Comfy Wrap, designed to provide comfort and protection for pets recovering from surgery or healing from a wound or skin problems.
Although the category is certainly growing, it is not without its challenges. Foremost among them is education. Many pet parents may never have considered purchasing first-aid or wound care products if they have a healthy pet, and it’s up to retailers to encourage them to be prepared.
“Customers don’t always know what they should have on hand,” says Susan Wuollett, co-founder and president of Protégé Biomedical. “One way we’ve overcome this is by packaging wound care items, including our hemostatic product, ClotIt, into convenient first-aid kits.”
Many customers may also need encouragement to feel confident addressing their pets’ health problems, and retailers can play a key role in showing them what kinds of minor issues they can care for on their own.
“There are still many owners who are uncomfortable caring for minor wounds, sores, ear and eye cleaning, etc.,” Hamby says. “It is critical for brick-and-mortar retailers to educate sales associates in this category to enhance the store experience and build trust with consumers. It is an opportunity to set your store apart from others.”
Vetericyn, which offers a variety of healthcare products, including skin, eye and ear care solutions, as well as its FoamCare conditioning shampoo line, invests in creating educational content that retailers can use. “We put a lot of time and energy into building out educational content around pet care at home including blog articles, ‘Ask Our Veterinarian’ Facebook live events, pet rescue success stories and others,” Hamby says. “The great thing is retailers love our content too. They often ask for copies of articles or videos we produce, and we’re happy to share.”
Lack of brand awareness is also an issue. Pet parents may not be aware of trusted names in the first-aid and wounded care category and will look to retailers to guide them toward high-quality products. Jim Kelly, CEO of Vermont’s Original, maker of moisturizing ointment Bag Balm, recommends stocking brands with a proven history of effectiveness, and striving to bring customer attention to the category in general.
“Some of the challenges retailers face in the first-aid and wound care category are keeping the products top of mind,” Kelly says. “The solution is making first-aid and wound care a prominent category for consumers. Merchandising products year-round is key.”
In addition to supporting retailers in overcoming challenges in the first-aid and wound care category, manufacturers are developing innovative products that make treating pets at home safer and easier. For example, ClotIt provides an easy way for pet owners to stop bleeding, whether from a minor scrape or a more serious injury.
The development of safe, effective antibiotic alternatives has been another major development in this category, says Deborah Brown, vice president of Pet King Brands, maker of ZYMOX. Products in the ZYMOX line use naturally occurring enzymes rather than antibiotics to treat and prevent ear and skin infections. Brown also notes the importance of ease of use—a product that is difficult or unpleasant to apply may discourage pet owners.
“Developments include options for application, such as a spray for larger areas or areas a pet owner doesn’t want to touch, and a tube with a catheter tip for hard-to-reach spots, such as between the paws, body folds or face,” Brown says. “Another significant innovation is products like ZYMOX that don’t require the pet owner to pre-clean before application. This means less stress to the pet and makes them very easy to use.”
Manufacturers are also listening to customer requests for products that suit the specific needs of their animal, allowing pet parents to find just the right solution for their first-aid or wound care problems. For All Four Paws, this has meant adjusting its approach to sizing to create options to fit a wide variety of dog breeds.
“Consumers complained that for dogs like Dachshunds, which have little necks but long snouts, it is hard to find a size that fits,” Markfield says. “So we took the neck size of the small Comfy Cone and mixed it with the length of our medium size.”
Once retailers have sought out the best first-aid and wound care products on the market, combining education with a purposeful marketing strategy will help build sales. Manufacturers suggest a number of approaches, including creating a dedicated healthcare section, creating first-aid product assortments or cross-selling various pet care and wellness items.
“Retailers who create a pharmacy-like environment with first-aid and other remedy products are finding a large lift in sales,” Brown says. “Promoting this section can be as easy as creating signage in the pet food aisles, at the checkout and/or on store windows.”
For ClotIt products, Wuollett recommends the first-aid kit approach. Protégé Biomedical offers pre-made product assortments that make merchandising easy for retailers. “Whether a store stocks our kit, includes us in a kit they design themselves or sets a section where customers can make their own, we think that all pet owners should own a family of wound care products, starting with ClotIt,” she says.
Many manufacturers offer merchandising support, including eye-catching and informative displays with convenient assortments of their product lines.
“Most recently we launched a ‘Pet Wellness Center,’ which contains the most-asked-for Vetericyn products,” Hamby says. “We’re about to launch an LCD video display which comes with a seven-inch screen, custom-made product video, shelf danglers, header card and brochures.”
However a retailer chooses to arrange their stock, the opportunities for cross-merchandising with this category are not to be missed. Kelly points out that merchandising multiple related healthcare solutions near each other, such as a first-aid kit and a selection of balms and skincare products, can spark add-on purchases. By creating these assortments, retailers can broaden the way customers think about pet healthcare products and build awareness of the wide variety of solutions on the market.
“Putting products from multiple related categories together offers retailers, and ultimately consumers, a total one-stop-shopping solution for a variety of pet care issues,“ Kelly says. PB