We all want to do our duty, and so do our dogs—at least a couple of times a day. Dog owners just happen to be the ones who clean it up. Pet specialty retailers can help them feel better about this unpleasant chore by offering a rich line up of products they need to pick up what Rex puts down.
“There is nothing sexy about poo and pee,” says Megan Miquelon, chief creative officer for Metro Paws LLC/Poopy Packs. “We’re just making the process of cleaning it up more enjoyable, colorful and fun—as fun as it can be to pick up poo.”
What’s fun is style, she says. “I have been in fashion for 17 years. People spend a lot of money and time making sure their kids look chic and stylish; we want people to do the same with their dogs. There is no reason why we cannot bring the status of dog products up to be more chic, stylish and unique.”
Style aside, earth-friendly functionality has also risen to become an important selling attribute for waste pick-up products. Dog owners have become very sensitive to the fact that plastic is bad for the environment, and they don’t want to contribute to one problem as they work to clean up another.
“We offer a definite combination of humor, superior design branding and, most importantly, the eco-aspect of our poop bags,” says Paige Penningroth, marketing director for PoopBags.com. “Our bags meet the highest biodegradable/compostable specifications in the U.S.A. and are made in the U.S.A. We are looking to expand our product line with other eco-friendly bags.”
Where people and their dogs live also affects the kind of products storeowners need to offer their customers. Urban dwellers are going to need a lot more indoor products, such as pee pads and indoor “yards.”
However, even city dogs need to be taken out for regular walks. And since we all know that “walking the dog” really means “doing the business,” pick-up products are essential.
“As a national wholesaler, we notice our products are more popular in urban areas throughout the year, as people typically do not have yards and have to walk their dogs,’” says Penningroth.
Suburban life allows more leisure time, perhaps, but that means yard clean-up supplies.
City or suburb, pick-up products must be portable. Poop bags come in a variety of designs and configurations. They can attach to and complement leashes. Bags come scented and not, big and small, colored and plain. Some bags have ties that make it easy to seal up. Some are shaped like giant mitts.
A new product on the market, The Waste Wand, “will revolutionize the way that you pick up pet waste,” according to the company’s website. It doesn’t talk about style, but rather, ease of use and practicality. It’s about getting the job done with the least fuss. It’s a plastic grocery bag attached to a metal hoop at the end of a long handle. It’s is also good for yards, since a pet owner can pick up multiple deposits in a single bag.
“Our focus for sales of this product is price, convenience and functionality,” says Dan Groth, co-owner of Waste Wand, which is also made in the U.S.A. “We’re priced lower than most other dog waste devices—in the $10 to $12 retail range.”
According to Groth, practicality is the rule. “Hands and tool stay clean during use,” he says. “One piece construction—no moving parts to break. Re-use plastic grocery bag. No support items to stock.”
No matter how well a product works in the field, storeowners first have to move it off the shelves. More often than not, success comes back to design. It has to look interesting on display in the store, and it has to present enough excitement to grab a shopper.
“We focus on the environment first, then the product functionality second, and the design and look third,” says Miquelon. “Although the design and look is really what takes over.”
“Product placement is everything,” adds Miquelon. “That, combined with a well-educated consumer, is key to success. It is always good to mention that we are a small, growing company. We design and pack everything ourselves. We like salespeople to know we are dog owners who made this product because we felt there was a gap in the market as dog consumers. Our packaging is made of recycled material, printed with soy inks, and our shipping is carbon neutral.”
PoopBags.com emphasizes the graphics and branding of its products, “It definitely stands out on the shelf,” says Penningroth. “All of the information a retailer may need to ‘talk up Poopbags’ is on the packaging. I am also a big believer in putting the product in the customer’s hands, as it is thicker and has a better feel than other dog waste bags on the market. Who really wants to get too up close and personal with poop?”
The Waste Wand is new to the market, so no trends have been established, says Groth. However, he has looked to packaging to compete for consumer preference. “We have packaged it in bright colors to draw attention, and it is packaged to fit on any j-hook,” he says.
Groth also recommends that storeowners interested in trying to build sales with the product should try it themselves. “Personal use by the store owners goes a long way, so that they can recommend it,” he says.
Dan Headrick is a writer and marketing executive. He and his wife, Pam Guthrie, owned and operated Wag Pet Boutique in Raleigh, NC, from 2003 to 2010. The store received numerous community and industry awards.