It can be difficult to sell bird cages in a pet store, unless there is a wide selection. Bird cages come in different sizes, shapes, styles and colors that can appeal to many bird owners’ tastes. Giving owners a choice for their pet’s home will increase the chance they purchase one. However, even if a large assortment is available with innovative designs and the newest trends, it still can be hard for a store to sell cages when the internet is flooded with them at extremely low prices. This hurdle can be overcome by selling high-quality and safe cages, and then marketing them properly—such as by doing bundles so the value increases in the customer’s eyes.
A cage in a box is not going to sell, which means store owners should take the cage out of the packaging and assemble it, so it is ready to use when customers see it. This is also a chance to check and see if there is any damage or parts missing. One of the biggest complaints from customers who buy cages over the internet is that there are missing or damaged pieces, and sometimes products are not returnable or it can take weeks for a replacement. Pet stores can use this to their advantage by having the cage all set up and ready to go home.
As space seems to be an issue for most pet stores, sometimes cages can be left in the box if the exact same style is already out, although it is best to have as many colors of that cage design on display as possible. If a cage is left in the box, be sure to pull it out and check that it is not broken or missing anything, so the customer will not have any issues when they get home. Also, a store that sells birds can offer to set up the cage for free if the customer buys the bird there, or if they buy a complete setup.
Just like assembling a cage can be considered a service to customers, setting up the inside of the cage properly with all the perches, toys, dishes and accessories correctly positioned for a pet bird, can be a service that is very valuable for bird owners, and something they cannot get from the internet. Offer this service for free if the new bird owner is buying everything needed from your store. This is a great way to sell more products, as well as ensure that the correct environment is achieved for that bird species.
Another complaint about buying from the internet is that the cage is cheaply made and may have bars that can come loose or be broken by the bird, includes plastic trays and dishes that are so thin they crack easily, and/or is made with materials that can poison a bird that likes to chew on the cages, such as parrots. Birds have been injured or killed due to using these poorly made products, so it is always beneficial for the customer to come to a pet store that will only carry high-quality cages that are manufactured properly to keep the bird safe. These cages will also last a long time so, in the long run, they are a better value than cages that are cheap in price but have to be replaced more often.
It’s in the Details
Size does matter when it comes to a bird’s home, and the best size to use is one that allows a bird to flap its wings freely or even be able to fly in the cage. For large species like macaws, this is difficult with a 3-ft. wingspan, and thus it is important for them to have a play-gym that allows them to spread their wings and exercise easily. For small birds like the popular parakeets and cockatiels, finches and canaries, having a larger cage that allows some flight is easier to accomplish, and it will keep the birds healthier.
The shape of the cage does not matter, although longer cages—often called flight cages—are the best for smaller species, as they can get more exercise in these. Round cages and pie-shaped ones can work well in corners, and neither of these shapes will cause any psychological issues for parrots, as some people on the internet claim. As long as the cage is large enough, it does not need to have any corners. If a bird is extremely nervous at first in a new home, covering the back, top and sometimes the sides of the cage can be helpful. This is rarely an issue, however, as all pet birds sold in U.S. are captive bred, and used to seeing people and having a cage as their home.
Another issue with cages bought on the internet is that the wire gauge, or thickness, is too thin for the parrot going into the cage. Even if the photo on the website shows a medium-sized bird like a Senegal parrot in that cage, it doesn’t mean the bars are thick enough to withstand that bird chewing on the bars. With a pet store, personnel can advise customers of what will work with the species of parrot they are buying or have at home. It can be very dangerous and can cause serious injury if the wire gauge used is too small. The bigger the parrot species, the thicker the bars must be, which means with the largest parrots—the macaws—the wire gauge must be very thick and strong, as these birds can split open incredibly tough Brazil nuts in the wild.
The spacing between the cage bars must also be taken into consideration. The smaller the bird, the less space there should be between the bars. No matter what size the bird is, it should never be able to stick its head through the bars of the cage. With larger birds, bar spacing can be farther apart, as the bars will be thicker and will allow the bird to be able to see out of its home more easily.
My father at his pet store, The Fish Nook Pet Center in Acton, Mass. would always joke with vendors that he did not have a store extender when they were trying to get him to bring in new cages or other large items. Space was always an issue, especially in his 2,000-sq.-ft. store, although he did it right by hanging smaller and lighter cages above the 4-ft. high shelving units so they were easy to see, yet out of the way and not taking up any of the limited floor space. If a store wants to sell more bird cages, they have to display enough of them so the bird owners feel that they are getting a real choice and the right style cage for their pet.
I would like to dedicate this bird column to my dad, Bill Bright, who passed away in January this year at 86 years of age. He was well-respected in the pet industry having run his store for 50 years before retiring officially four years ago. I know many pet industry people, especially those in New England, will miss him terribly as I certainly will for the rest of my life. PB
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 40 years of pet industry and retailing experience.