BY LINDSEY GETZ
Today’s consumers are looking for safe and effec- tive solutions to a variety
of their dogs’ problems, including everything from arthritis
Both wealthier consumers
and those who are on a budget
are interested in natural remedies, said Efroim Gurman, Ph.D.,
Dr.Sci., CEO of VetVittles LLC
in New York. Those who can afford it want to give “their furry
friends the very best health support,” Dr. Gurman said. These
are often consumers who take
supplements themselves and
recognize the benefts.
“The other type of customer is
the pet owner who wants to save
money and sees supplements as
a way to strengthen the health
of their dog and, in turn, reduce
veterinary spending,” Gurman
said. “Both types of pet owners
raise sales of supplements.”
Customers have come to
expect variety when shop-
ping for both essential oils and
“These days, shoppers want a
lot of options,” said Diane Dewberry, owner of The Healthy
Animal in Pembroke, Mass.
“Though they do need education
on those options—and turn to us
with their questions—at the end
of the day, they want to feel that
they had some choice in what
they selected for their pet. That’s
why we carry a number of different kinds of products.”
Dog owners turn to supplements and
essential oils to address their companions’
health and behavioral needs.
THE IMPORTANCE OF EDUCATION
When it comes to essential oils and supplements, Patti Vincent, owner of
Puppy Love Dog Store in Beaumont, Texas, said the products do not sell
themselves. Customers require information in order to understand what the
products can do and why they’re needed.
“We’re lucky because our customer base is well informed about healthful
alternative care, so they are very receptive to new options for their animals,”
Vincent said. “Oftentimes, they are not aware that these healing options exist
but are excited to learn about them.”
Education also is critical in this category because essential oils and sup-
plements need to be used properly in order to be safe and effective. Pamela
Fisher, DVM, founder of Calm My Pet in North Canton, Ohio, stressed the
importance of educating customers on the proper use of these products.
“Use caution with diffusing essential oils as they may be too strong for
dogs and not safe for cats and birds,” Dr. Fisher said. “Consult a holistic vet-
erinarian who is experienced with the use of supplements and essential oils
before using or recommending them. Partnering with a holistic veterinarian
is also a great way to provide educational opportunities for store employees
Though she’s been formulating aromatherapy remedies since 1992, Vicki
Rae Thorne, a certifed aromatherapist and herbalist, and owner of Earth
Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill., said that only recently has she seen the interest real-
ly surge. As these products’ popularity grows, so does the need for education.
“Even though there is more acceptance and validity in today’s marketplace than when I started, education remains crucial in helping customers
recognize and understand what makes a product an authentic aromatherapy
product,” Thorne said. “Coinciding with increased interest in the healing
power of essential oils, there has been a lot of misleading information written
and taught about using them.”
CREATIVE WAYS TO DISPLAY
Opinions on where to merchandise essential oils and supplements vary. Some
retailers say they have these types of products in their “health” section.
Anthony Bennie, founder and chief nutrition offcer for Clear Conscience Pet
in Cape Coral, Fla., suggested high strength—and thus higher cost—
supplements should be merchandised in a “therapeutic section.” Meanwhile,
pet food toppers with nutrient boosters should be merchandised directly in
conjunction with pet foods in the same aisles and section so that consumers
understand that they are meant to be used in conjunction with food, he said.
Betsy Key Hooker Hintzmann, owner and partner at Four Dogs Pet Supplies in Charlotte, N.C., said supplements and essential oils are typically kept
up front at Four Dogs—which gives customers a reason to chat about them.
“We have our essential oils right on the counter with us and have found
that our customers do like picking them up and asking questions while they
check out,” Hooker Hintzmann said. “Although they don’t always buy them on
the spot, it puts the idea in their mind.”
Patti Vincent, owner of Puppy Love Dog Store in Beaumont, Texas, gets
creative by displaying supplements together in an antique cupboard that
looks like an old medicine cabinet.
“We also make sure to include company brochures explaining the bene-
fts so that customers can read more about them on the spot,” Vincent said
Props can be incredibly useful, said Vicki Rae Thorne, certifed aromather-
apist and herbalist, and owner of Earth Heart Inc. in Dundee, Ill.
“One of our retailers shared what has become my favorite sales technique—using a product demo with a toy dog to show a prospective customer
how to apply mists to the fngertips and then massage it onto the dog’s ear
tips,” Thorne said.
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