As summer comes to an end, it’s time to start thinking about the most wonderful time of year—the holiday season. It’s a time for loved ones to celebrate being together, which, of course, includes their furry family members.
"The holiday time is always a busy time of year for all retailers and there is no exception for pet," says Lisa Hisamune, director of sales at P.L.A.Y. based in San Francisco, Calif. "Since pets are treated more like family these days, they are always included on the holiday shopping list."
It’s imperative for retailers to plan out their holiday selection prior to the season to offer customers the best and most festive products available. One of the first things to consider is when to start putting seasonal products on display.
According to Gretchen George, president of PetRageous Designs, marketing efforts should begin as soon as products are available in stores.
"The end of October is now the holiday buying season," says George. "Holiday launch sales are a great way to let consumers know that holiday-themed items are in stock."
Many retailers opt to start preparing products in early fall, such as September or early October, but not every product release is going to have the same timing—it’s up to retailers to do some research.
"Social media and trend observance is the No. 1 thing to look out for when deciding on a product release(s), especially when it involves the holidays," says Grant Jape, assistant marketing manager of ZippyPaws.
Another important aspect of holiday retailing involves coming up with creative ways to decorate stores and "create the vibe," says Alisha Navarro, president of 2 Hounds Design.
"Customers love a good window display and this can attract more customers into your store to see what is going on inside," adds Hisamune. "Since it has been a tough year for everyone, if we are able to get outside again and shop in stores, customers will appreciate retailers who really get into that holiday spirit."
While catchy and creative product displays will hook customers in, it’s important that the holiday products are given a special spotlight. Festive decorations shouldn’t take away from the product and the benefits it provides to pet parents—they should complement it.
"The best type of product displays are the ones that highlight and make the selected product stand out or ‘pop,’" explains Jape.
This year, retailers will need to keep in mind that displaying products online will be just as important as showcasing them on the shelves.
"Anything visual should transfer from in-person to online, such as website or social posts," says Kerry Wezner, marketing manager of Fluff & Tuff. "If there is a chance that foot traffic may be down in your store but increased on your website or social channels, you want to make sure your customer base is seeing what you have to offer."
As the reliance on the internet and social platforms has grown these past few months, holiday marketing initiatives need to follow suit and have a larger presence in the social space.
"Retailers can prepare and maximize their holiday inventory by offering a daily/weekly promotion on Facebook or on other social media platforms," says Sara Schrekenhofer, advertising manager and graphic designer for Leather Brothers, Inc. "[They can] host a Sip & Shop via Facebook live [and] can promote a weekly drawing for a ‘giveaway.’"
No one can predict what the next couple months will look like, but as an industry, we have good reason to be optimistic.
"I believe there will be industries that will be [negatively] affected by the recent events of the world this year," says Jape. "However, the pet industry will not be one of them."
Between the new wave of new pet owners following this year’s adoption surge and multiple studies indicating that pet parents are more in-tune with the wants/needs of their pets due to increased time together, it’s likely many consumers will take the opportunity to spoil their furry friends a little more than usual. Additionally, there has also been more awareness surrounding the importance of supporting small businesses.
"[Folks want] to support their local stores by giving back and shopping local," says Schrekenhofer. "I know my family wants our local brick-and-mortar stores to make it through this pandemic, and we continue to support them."
Though the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted travel plans, the desire to provide loved ones with presents is still there, no matter how families decide to get together.
"Will we be traveling around to be with family or will we still be staying home and Zoom calling family?" says Hisamune. "Either way, I think people will still buy gifts for their loved ones, so I think it is important to continue to be prepared and well stocked."
Additionally, Jape recommends retailers take the time to do a little extra research when stocking holiday-themed products.
"Compare and contrast [a company’s] products between the years," he suggests. "Take note of the products that have not dropped or increased in sales during the year. Make informed decisions based on previous data. A little bit of research can go a long way."
As the majority of stores have reopened across the country, retailers should make sure to provide special joy and cheer to in-store pickups.
"For stores doing curbside pickup, pet pictures with Santa could still be a great way for holiday launch sales and to let customers know their store is carrying these items," says George. "This is still a great way for in-store retail to engage with their customers and let them know holiday-themed items are available."
The season of giving may be more important than ever this year, and if retailers are able, doing their part to give back and support charities at this time is another way to display the holiday spirit. For its part, Fluff & Tuff offers a special holiday toy each year to give back during the holidays.
"Every year since 2014, we have launched a Holiday Charity Toy in which we donate 100 percent of our profits to various charities, shelters and causes that benefit dogs in need," says Wezner. "This year, we’ll be donating our profits of our Holiday Charity Toy to pet pantries to help supply food and supplies during the COVID-19 crisis.
"It’s a simple way for their customers to give back while shopping for the holidays—something that we know that different demographic groups love to do—especially Millennials," she continues.
Fluff & Tuff also provides retailers with signs, social posts and other promotional materials to help share this campaign with customers. In addition to providing these marketing assets, the company’s working to make its product images and descriptions more available for retailers as they seek to incorporate the materials into their online presence.
"If retailers are interested in putting their product offerings on their websites, it’s best to be prepared prior to the busy holiday season to make sure everything is working properly," says Wezner.
Being prepared for the holidays is key, and retailers should do their best to enjoy the season and get into the holiday spirit to help customers and their pets enjoy this special time.
"Put a smile on your face and do your thing," says Navarro. "We can’t control what is coming. What we can control is our reaction and our own state of mind to help us get through whatever is ahead of us." PB