When a pet store wants to sell any type of products, services or pets, such as in the bird category, they must consider how to merchandise and market what is being offered in a way that will generate the most business. In today’s marketplace, there are a number of options, ideas and help so that a pet store can not only survive, but thrive.
The first thing to consider is what exactly do the words merchandising and marketing mean? In basic terms for retailing products, merchandising is what is offered for sale and how those items are displayed. When merchandising is done correctly, it will increase the sale of the products. This coincides with marketing, which is how the store promotes the merchandise it carries to generate interest and sales from customers. This can take on many forms, such as advertising, signage, running specials and more.
For example, a pet store can use three types of merchandising to help sell more parrot toys.
1. Signage that emphasizes the fact that these intelligent birds need to have different types of toys, and that these toys need to be changed out to avoid boredom every month.
2. Displays that have a variety of toys organized by size and kept fresh by bringing in new and different toys on a regularly.
3. Set-ups where toys are included as part of the package.
A number of manufacturers understand that displaying a category of products, such as bird toys, in a way that looks great can be a time-consuming task, so these vendors offer photos and diagrams called planograms that make it easier for the pet store to set up an area that looks amazing and organized. Many manufacturers also offer point-of-purchase marketing materials such as shelf talkers, posters and brochures, and may offer samples to help sell more of their product. Retailers should take advantage of any marketing material, planograms and samples available.
One direct way to market bird toys is to have a sale on them or have a toy, or category of toys, as a special of the week. You should promote the sale in flyers and on social media outlets. New toys can be placed on a store’s website and social media pages to generate interest and bring in customers.
Another great strategy for a store to sell a lot more toys, and often birds as well, is to include a few toys in the display cages. Having a pet parakeet play with a toy utilizes both merchandising and marketing techniques. The merchandising part is showing the toy off in a store cage, and the marketing aspect is the bird playing with the toy, showing the importance of toys for pet birds. Even more significantly, it is a lot of fun to watch.
Another great merchandising and marketing tool is video. Make videos of pet birds playing with the toys and put them out on the store’s website and social media pages. A video of a pet having fun will help create huge amounts of interest that can easily be transformed into the sale of not only the item being shown, but the pet bird as well.
Any of the previous examples can be put to use for almost any product, pet or even service offered from the pet store. For example, if a store boards birds when owners go on vacation, they can put up a sign about the service and cost, or put a video up on the internet showing off the boarding area and care. If a customer refers another customer to a service, like boarding, show them how much you appreciate their loyalty by giving them a discount the next time they board their pet or buy supplies.
Marketing can also be applied to the pet shop itself to get more customers to come in and hopefully buy more. Pet stores have many wonderful opportunities for specials, sales and events besides the obvious ones, such as an anniversary or holiday special. Photos of a pet in a holiday setting can be a great promotion. Host a photo shoot where half of the proceeds go to a local shelter, which is another great marketing tool. Many pet stores have local shelters bring in adoptable animals on certain days of the month, usually on weekends, inspiring more customers to come to the store and shop.
Specials can be run anytime of the year and can be connected with events such as Halloween or a store anniversary, or offered on certain days every month. It’s best to pick days when the business is normally quiet, like Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and then run specials such as a Two for Tuesdays on bird toys—the second one could be free or half off. Another option would be a Treats for Tuesdays—running specials on bird treats—or Wild for Wednesdays, where specials can be on wild bird products, wild toys, etc. With a bit of creativity and imagination, there is no limit to the type of marketing that can be done in a pet store.
One important thing to keep in mind to market and merchandise properly is to keep the store clean, bright and full. If there are pets like birds, cleaning is going to be a fairly constant job. Be sure that lighting is up to date. This may include adding lights to darker areas, as well as getting new bulbs like LED ones that are made to fit almost any type of light fixture and will save money in energy bills.
It is vital in any retail store setting to never have open spaces, which means any area with product should always look full and organized, but not cluttered. Empty spaces can convey to the potential customer that the store is not doing well, cannot get inventory or some other negative perception that can cause a loss of sales. As needed, fill in spaces with extra inventory and have a theme to your store that allows nice sight lines, a great floor plan and a welcoming feel.
What is offered in the store is dependent on location and, more importantly, customer base. A smart retailer will do research to find out what the customers need and want in the pet store long before the business owner starts to buy inventory. Of course, it also depends on the owner and what they are interested in and passionate about. The old saying "you can’t sell what you don’t have" is common sense, but even more important is that you can’t sell what you don’t care about.
Last but not least, the best way to market and sell more products is to understand a product’s benefits and value to the pet owner. My belief has always been that it’s better to sell what you know and believe in; knowledge is power. As long as the business owner and staff are willing to continue learning, and follow the steps needed to merchandise and market properly, sales will keep increasing in the store. PB
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 40 years of pet industry and retailing experience.